Jastro's stage falls into further disrepair as it awaits money for upgrades

Stacey Shepard, The Bakersfield Californian
·4 min read

May 3—Lamar Brandysky called it.

One year ago, the downtown resident started a petition calling on the city to set aside money for repairs needed at the historic stage at Jastro Park in downtown Bakersfield.

"I thought, 'This is going to lead to more wreck and ruin,'" the retired county worker said of the disrepair evident at the time.

And it proved to be a prophetic statement. Recently Brandysky and other residents around the park noticed the railing around the structure has been knocked out in some areas, with balusters left strewn around the structure. Chunks of concrete are also missing.

"The responsible people can't just stand by and watch this get broken down bit by bit," Brandysky said. He said the city should put up a fence around the structure until it can be properly repaired.

It would be a shame, Bradnysky said, if it's left to be "broken down, bit by bit."

City Councilman Andrae Gonzales, who represents the downtown area, said he's not in favor of a fence and instead would like to request a mobile camera be set up in the park to monitor the area. There are also patrols of the park done by Trans-West, a private security company the city has contracted with to conduct additional safety patrols in certain areas.

And in the coming weeks, he will request a half-million dollars in 2021-22 fiscal year capital improvement budget to go to Jastro Park. The budget will be adopted in June and begins in July. On top of that, the City Council approved more than $300,000 to upgrade Jastro Park's playground during its mid-year budget revision.

"I've been pushing for more dollars for a lot of our urban parks but in particular for the stage at Jastro, for years now," Gonzales said. "Jastro Park is more than a neighborhood park. It really is central to the whole city. It's enjoyed by folks from throughout metro Bakersfield and I think we need to treat it a little differently and we need to invest in it."

The park is named for Henry Jastro, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who eventually settled in Bakersfield and was a county supervisor for more than two decades. According to local historian Gilbert Gia, Jastro's will contained instructions to build a bandstand at Jastro City Park, which his daughters carried out.

Gia wrote: "Above the bandstand's facade are the words 'From Henry A. Jastro to the People of Bakersfield.' His generous gift was acknowledged for years, but over time Bakersfield's memory faded."

A footnote in Gia's writing cites the April 23, 1927 issue of The Bakersfield Californian as reporting the bandstand was designed by Charles H. Biggar and built by Henry Eissler, "and is faced with Indiana limestone. Speakers at the dedication of May 1 were Mayor L.K. Stoner and Alfred Harrell, who characterized himself as 'a life-long friend of Jastro.'"

The Jastro stage is one of three in Bakersfield parks; the other two are at Jefferson Park and Beale Park, where the Beale Park Band for years has put on a summer concert series.

The most recent upgrades to Jastro Park were a complete overhaul of the tennis courts in 2019, with the addition of several pickle ball courts, which are heavily used.

Fidel Gonzalez, the city's parks and facilities construction manager, said the money would go to improve the stage and the basketball courts at the park. He has consulted with a local company and the Bakersfield Historic Preservation Commission on how to restore the structure and maintain its ornamental features while also modernizing it and adding handicap access. The money will also pay for electrical improvements, roof repairs, repair to the tile floor and stone work, Gonzalez said.

Vandalism in city parks has become a problem, especially in the past two years.

"We can fix it but how do we prevent it from getting vandalized again? Until we resolve that problem we'll keep seeing the same thing," Gonzalez said.

The Bakersfield Police Department has received 23 calls for service regarding Jastro Park since Jan. 1, according to Sgt. Robert Pair. "The calls range from municipal code violations like amplified music to checking the welfare of mental health incidents," he said.

Officers proactively patrol the park, Pair said, which has resulted in arrests for incidents such as animal cruelty and narcotics possession.

Councilman Gonzales said the city had an $8 million backlog of deferred maintenance in city parks, which it hopes to wipe out over the next two years using Measure N funding. The city allocated $3 million in its mid-year budget revisions and plans to request another $5 million in the upcoming budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.