The fight to reclaim Pearson Park began most nights with a potluck dinner.
Today, residents of Anaheim Colony celebrate the taking back of the historic neighborhood park with a brown bag lunch.
For more than a year, a core group of nearly three dozen neighbors teamed with the Anaheim Police Department’s
community policing detail to restore what long had been a legacy of tranquillity at the 72-year-old park.
Homeless people and young gang members, many dealing in drugs, had taken over the park, at 400 N. Harbor Blvd., and
made it a 190-acre place to avoid.
Residents were afraid to walk through the park in the evenings and at night.
But at 11:30 a.m. today, a neighborhood group that has worked to rid Pearson Park of the unwanted intruders celebrates
what it calls a victory to win Anaheim’s first park back for residents.
“Now it looks like what a park should look like,” said one of four residents credited with leading the clean-up effort,
Don Baldwin. “It was a community team that did it.” Baldwin, along with Anaheim Colony residents Mike Tucker,
Bonnie Allen and Marilyn Lemken, were recently honored by police for their work.
It used to be that gang members would bicycle in and gather.
Drug users would leave needles and other paraphernalia lying about.
When neighbors decided enough was enough, a group organized.
Many evenings its members would gather to enjoy a potluck supper and then, armed with flashlights, would fan out to
talk to the homeless people who increasingly spent the night there, causing residents to stay away.
Why were they there? Did they need help finding a shelter? Some of the street people accepted offers of help. Others
left when it was made clear they weren’t wanted.
Anaheim Police Chief Randall Gaston committed two ranking officers and a cadre of patrol officers to clean up the area,
Baldwin said.
And the two-pronged effort worked, Baldwin added.
Gaston, credited as one of the driving forces behind the clean-up, died in February while jogging near the park. He will
be honored with the planting of an oak tree and posting of a plaque during today’s ceremony.
Gaston was a pillar of strength in the effort, Baldwin said.
City officials declared the park a probation- and parole-
free zone, meaning it was a violation for anybody on
probation or parole for sex- or drug-related offenses to
loiter there.
A handball court that had become a gang gathering place
was leveled, and grass was planted in its place.
Fran and Ed Denver, who live near the park, moved to
Anaheim Colony in 1964 after falling in love with the area
and the park while driving to the beach from their old
home in Glendale.
On Thursday the Denvers strolled through the park while afternoon shadows stretched across the grass. A blue-green
pond rippled and leaves rustled in the breeze.
“All that bad influence is gone, and I’m glad,” said Fran Denver, 76. “I don’t know for how long it’ll be gone.
“Hopefully for good. “