Nonprofit Web site ParkScan spearheads clean-up of S.F.’s dirtiest, most troubled parks

Gillian Gillett is one of 20 neighbors taking turns doing a daily walk through Juri Commons Park in the Mission to pick up trash and take pictures of problems such as graffiti and vandalism.

The group takes the issues and images to Parkscan.org, which sends the complaint directly to the person in charge of fixing the problem at the Recreation and Park Department, which maintains and manages The City’s parks.

The Web site, which is run by the park advocacy group the Neighborhood Park Council, began connecting park users directly with people in the Recreation and Park Department after seeing a similar program in Connecticut that helped residents report potholes on their city streets.

The site began as a pilot program that covered 11 parks in 2002, but went to a full launch covering 145 parks this year. The program, which is used every day with varying numbers by park enthusiasts, cost $2 million and is being maintained by three grants, including one from The City.

The Web site allows users to file a complaint or a compliment with up to three images. After users have logged the issue, the department’s response is tracked using a number, and then posted on the Web site once the issue is addressed.

“What’s great about all of this is that it is completely transparent and the public can completely see what’s been happening,” Alfredo Pedroza of the Neighborhood Park Council said.

Pedroza said the complaints and compliments allow the organization to put together annual reports that monitor the biggest problems residents say are plaguing The City’s parks. The Neighborhood Park Council presents quarterly and annual reports to the Board of Supervisors with a ranking of The City’s 10 most troubled parks.

“We can say ‘Hey, these are the problems the Recreation and Park Department has dealt with, the resources they have and this is what they couldn’t deal with because they didn’t have the resources,’” he said.

Pedroza said Recreation and Park officials regularly respond directly on the Web site to residents’ concerns. He said, for example, the department always responds in a timely manner to complaints about graffiti from ParkScan users.

The Recreation and Park Department has recently begun investing in new technology and it hopes to integrate its own digital problem-tracking service with ParkScan by next year, according to Recreation and Park Department Spokeswoman Rose Marie Dennis. She said the department appreciates the program but it is difficult for them to manage residents’ expectations.

“I think in the last couple of years one of the things we have gotten better at is we realistically tell people what we can and cannot do,” she said.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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