Central Coast

DEAR JON: Tatum's Garden cleanliness questioned

Volunteers built it; volunteers keep it clean

Dear Jon: Tatum's Garden cleanliness questioned

SALINAS, Calif. - Tatum's Garden, a special 20,000 square foot playground has full accessibility. There's no other playground like it for a radius of 250 miles. Sandra wrote to me concerned, ‘Dear Jon, I was at Tatum's Garden recently with my grandson and it was so dirty. I know the city has budget problems, but what happened?  

I asked the city Public Works Director Gary Peterson about this and I was informed that the arrangement with the Bakker family, who inspired Tatum's Garden, is that volunteers will keep it clean.

On any given day at Tatum's Garden you'll find the Bakker children, Tatum, who was born with Spina Bifida and is confined to a wheel chair, Olivia and Wyatt playing. The day I visited Olivia and Tatum were playing ‘produce market', "Those are tomatoes, how many would you like? Two!!"

An entire community enjoys this one-of-a-kind playground. Sandra Saldivar, joined us Tuesday, her letter pointed to an ongoing misconception, that the City of Salinas is responsible to keep Tatum's Garden clean.

Sandra is very emotional about Tatum's Garden, "This is such a big deal for us. I love coming here with my grandson and all of his friends. And I want people to take care of this place, it's so beautiful."

Motivation for this unique 'sanctuary', as Tatum's mother Amanda Bakker says, was born out of bringing the community together to play and to keep it clean. "This is an example of what we can do when we come together around a common goal, something that benefits family. We hope that the community doesn't forget their piece in this too," says Bakker.

On occasion, a small percentage of users leave Tatum's Garden messy, an ongoing concern for Director of Care, Debbie Panelli. Panelli coordinates cleaning, maintenance and all the different groups that make special plans to use Tatum's Garden. Some of these uses are for learning and some are for parties. But whatever the use, clean up afterward is a necessary part of the event.

Speaking of that small percentage of those who don't clean up after themselves, Panelli says, "I think, they think there will always be someone else that will clean up their mess. Well, that someone is me and the volunteers!"

But the arrangement with the City of Salinas, is that an all-volunteer force will keep it clean, says Panelli, "We have built it with volunteers and we are cleaning it and maintaining it with volunteers. So that we can keep it free, open, healthy and beautiful for our community."

I asked Amanda her desire for the feelings of visitors once they get ready to leave Tatum's Garden, "I guess I would hope that we would treat it like it's our home, like it's a special place. People tell me all the time that this is their favorite place."

So if you'd like to volunteer to clean, log on to www.Tatum'sGarden.org.

Community clean up events are the last Saturday of every month. Their next monthly clean up, is Saturday, August 30 from 8 a.m. to noon.

Remember, you can see Dear Jon on News Channel 5 at 5 and 6 p.m. and on the Central Coast CW at 10 p.m.

Send your question to me at DearJon@KIONRightNow.com

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