SAN BERNARDINO - Seccombe Lake Park has been called a lot of things - dirty, dangerous, symbolic of the city's decline - but more than 200 people spent at least a few hours there Saturday so they could use another word.

"It's ours," said Scott Johnson, a resident of the city's northside, as he and his son stood in a park he said residents could be proud of.

When he first came to San Bernardino, Johnson said, he told his wife about a large lake in a downtown park that seemed like a great place to visit.

Pointing to crime and other problems at the lake, his wife - who grew up in the city - said to keep his distance.

But on Saturday, Johnson and many other volunteers got up close as they scrubbed graffiti, painted, raked leaves and made other aesthetic improvements they hope will lead to greater change.

If people start start taking responsibility for the park, then the problems should go away, Johnson said.

The one-day city-sponsored cleanup was part of a larger, ongoing effort to rehabilitate Seccombe Lake Park.

"I've said it before: When this park turns around, the city will turn around," said Kevin Hawkins, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Hawkins helped clean Saturday and also helped persuade the Urban Conservation Corps of the Inland Empire to move its headquarters to the park so there would be a regular presence there.

Even before Saturday's cleanup, that was having an effect, said Andrew Goodman of the UCC, who leads a crew of young adults in cleaning the park five days a week.

"It's becoming a nicer place," said Goodman, 29. "We just have to keep that going."

Many of the residents asked about keeping it going, noted Councilwoman Virginia Marquez, who represents the area of the city where the park is located.

"We haven't picked a date for another cleanup yet, but we'll have one soon," she said. "It's really great to see all these people here to help in their city."

Marquez and 5ive-N-Fly Pizza together paid for more than 100 pizzas for the group.

The city has hosted other cleanups at the park that were quickly followed by inattention, deterioration, and another cleanup. Crime problems remain, especially after dark.

"It can be a little depressing," said Jon Miller, 22, there with 55 members of the Sigma Chi fraternity from Cal State San Bernardino. "I was here last year and I'm here again. But all of us together can clean it up, and even if it only lasts for a little while - then it's nice for a while."


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