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HARBOR GATEWAY : Transfer of Rosecrans Director Delayed

March 03, 1994|IRIS YOKOI

In response to community concerns, Los Angeles parks officials have delayed the transfer of a popular park director at Rosecrans Recreation Center. But angry neighboring residents said they will continue to fight the move.

Neighbors of the park at Vermont Avenue and 149th Street have staged demonstrations and a letter-writing campaign to fight a decision to move director John Willingham to another park in South-Central Los Angeles.

Residents say Willingham's dedication to the park during his three-year tenure turned a one-time gang hangout into a safe haven for children.

The community campaign to keep Willingham drew the support of Los Angeles Councilman Rudy L. Svorinich, who wrote to Recreation and Parks General Manager Jackie Tatum requesting that Willingham keep his job.

But Tatum says she needs to use Willingham's skills at another facility. Last week, Tatum postponed Willingham's transfer, originally scheduled Feb. 20, for three weeks so he can help the community and the new director, Victor Jauregui, with the transition.

But angry residents continue to accuse city parks officials of ignoring the community's concerns. The new director is assigned to work only two evening shifts per week. Without a director on site every night, as was Willingham's practice, the facility will be overrun by gang members again, said resident Pamela Watkins.

Parks officials insist they are committed to improving Rosecrans' programs and facilities, and cite budget cutbacks and reduced staff as part of the reason for the change in directors.

Jauregui, the new director, promised that even if he isn't at the park each night, other parks staff will be on duty. Jauregui said he also plans to add programs like exercise, self-defense and dance classes to involve more girls, young women and adults in the park.

"I want to make this a well-rounded center," he said.

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