The root of learning: McKinley students get hands-on gardening experience through Agriculture Academy

An elementary school is a place where a lot of growing takes place — young minds learn something new each day, students develop and mature mentally and sometimes even plants, fruits and vegetables are harvested after a strong season.

Tucked behind McKinley Elementary School’s classrooms is a fully functioning garden where students learn everything from loosening soil to making a delicious meal from the fruits and vegetables grown. There are even five egg laying chickens clucking around their coop. 

It’s all part of the Bakersfield City School District Extended Learning Program’s After School Academies, which is having its formal launch this school year across 42 school sites. Implementation of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) activities has been the result of a previous year-long planning with all stakeholders in the district and community partners, such as the Buena Vista Edible Schoolyard, said Deanna Clarke, director of Extended Learning.

“We knew we wanted to go into this next phase, but we weren’t sure how it was going to look like,” she said. “(Buena Vista was) really instrumental in opening everything to us — all their employees, Grimm Foundation employees. They came over and started looking at the land that we have and working with our staff …They helped design the whole garden.”

The goal is to employ a project-based learning approach that more closely aligns with what students will experience in college and the workforce.

Two academies were implemented the previous school year: an Agriculture Academy at McKinley Elementary School and a STEAM Academy at Fremont Elementary School. McKinley also held its first summer academy this year. 

Around 300 students from transitional kindergarten/kindergarten to sixth grade participate in the Agriculture Academy at McKinley. Lorie Morris, academy program specialist, has developed a schedule where kids take part in the agricultural experience in the garden, participate in a STEM lab and learn about kitchen nutrition for three hours once a week after school.

“It’s just so neat,” she said.

On Wednesday, first and second graders took turns moving through the three learning sections and getting their hands dirty in the process. 

One group was focused on learning how to properly work with soil. Garden educator Mia Castillo demonstrated techniques to loosen soil so that it’s fluffy, rather than packing it harshly into a planting tray where the seed would suffocate. 

Those students later planted seeds and watered them with the help of garden educator Jesse Sanchez, and now anxiously await the first signs of life to emerge from the soil.

At full harvest 40 types of fruits and vegetables are grown at the garden. 

“I like that we get to plant,” said second grader Ella Mercado. “I ate a red pepper and wanted to plant it (at home).” 

Many students come home from the academy with hopes of having a garden in their backyard. Second grader Jayvin Wallace, who participated in last year’s and this summer’s academies, said his grandmother has a garden and has planted with her. He now wants to have one for himself.

“I want to plant watermelons,” he said. 

Farm to table specialist Dana Johnson said elementary-aged children are the best to teach because they come in as natural born scientists.

“A scientist is someone who wants to inquire and learn and they just absorb it,” she said. “They start with a question and finish with an answer. It’s joyful.”

She also added students learn about failure, such as when crops don’t grow well and when seeds don’t germinate. 

“Does that mean we’re bad farmers? No, it just means we plant more,” she said.

McKinley Elementary will also be adding a kitchen this year where students can learn how to prepare food, set up dinner tables, demonstrate proper dining etiquette and more. 

The school will also be holding its first farmer’s market in November to coincide with the kitchen opening.

Lifelong lessons are learned from the academy, and McKinley Principal Rona Chacon-Mellon said the entire culture on campus has changed.

“The pride that the kids have in this school and trying different things that they normally wouldn’t try. I remember in particular a little first grader last year who would have never tried a radish or chives or any of that,” she said. “His father talked to us about how he only ate chicken nuggets or McDonald’s, and now he goes into a grocery store and picks out vegetables and wants to try out kale.”

Other academies in the district will focus on topics such as environmental and physical science, robotics, coding, music engineering, kinetic art, dance, film and more.

Incoming BC students, families attend convocation to ease fears

Students aren’t the only ones scared about going off to college. Often times it’s their parents who are even more nervous about the little birds leaving the nest. 

To mitigate that fear, Bakersfield College invited both students and parents to its New Student Convocation Tuesday to learn more about what is available at the college before the first day of school Monday.

Several student clubs and resource centers set up booths on campus to recruit new members or to explain what is available to students and parents, Bridge to BC Director Kimberly Bligh explained.

“We wanted to get families here and see what their students will experience,” she said. “Most times parents have the most fear about their child going to college and not the student.”

Other activities included a scavenger hunt with prizes for the first 17 students to complete it, free dinner and a big welcome from President Sonya Christian, Bligh and other college officials. Parents, students and faculty members recited an oath to each other, promising to give it their all the next few years.

“I’m trying to get involved, meet new people and get my questions answered,” said Melisa Hernandez, who wants to pursue early childhood education, when asked why she decided to attend the convocation. As she toured several booths available, she said she did not find a club that stuck out to her, but she was not going to give up.

Her goal for her first year at college is to develop better habits. 

“I need to do homework on time, study more — because you don’t really have to study in high school — and try not to procrastinate,” she said.

Evelyn Verdejo, a music and theater major, said she is most looking forward to pushing herself academically and having people get to know the person she most wants to be: an entertainer. 

“I want people to support what I do with singing and acting,” she said. “I also didn’t graduate with honors or achievements in high school, so I want to do it here.”

For many of the parents who attended the convocation, they were excited to see what their children would be diving into next week. Bill and Yumiko Devine said their son, Kaih, is their third child attending college, so while they generally know what to expect, they are still going through a new experience.

“This is a new adventure. He’s doing a college sport which our two daughters didn’t do, so he’s taking his own route to success,” Bill Devine said.

Kaih Devine will be on the swim team, and he hopes to get close with his teammates. “And maintain your grades,” his father added, with a laugh. 

This summer, incoming students got a chance to participate in the college’s Bridge to BC program, which Bligh described as a one-day “get ready for college bootcamp.” Students had the opportunity to interact with peers, student and faculty mentors to learn more about the transition from high school to college, participate in hands-on activities, discuss ways to overcome college barriers and talk about the road to success.

Having the convocation available is just another way to ensure a successful start to the school year, according to Bligh.

“This is an amazing thing, it’s the highlight of the year for me,” she said. “I know how scared they can be … and my goal was to create an event so that everyone in the family can join in on the adventure that they’ll have the next few years.”

Murder trial for man accused of murdering baby continues, prosecution expected to rest Tuesday

A man who posted a Facebook status update asking for advice on how to kill a baby while it’s in the hospital reacted calmly after he was told by security guards at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles he could no longer come visit his girlfriend’s 4-month-old son at the facility.

The man’s girlfriend did not indicate that Daniel McKie was a danger to herself or her son despite hospital staff encouraging her to keep her son away from McKie, according to a prosecution witness who testified Monday.

McKie, 21, is accused of causing the death of Anakin McKie, the son of his girlfriend, who died Feb. 26, 2017 in their home on the 12900 block of Umtali Road in Tehachapi.

An autopsy determined Anakin had injuries consistent with violent shaking, Prosecutor David Wilson said during opening statements last week.

Daniel McKie is not the biological father of Anakin, but they share the same last name.

Daniel McKie was formally charged with first-degree murder and assault of a child causing death. His bail was set at $1 million.

Eric Roseman, medical social worker at CHLA, was assigned to work with Anakin and his mother while he was at the hospital. Roseman is the social worker who dealt with the repercussions of McKie’s Facebook post, including advising Anakin’s mother to keep the baby away from McKie. 

When Roseman told McKie he had to leave the hospital and could not return, he said McKie “was very calm (and) not showing a lot of emotion” when he was escorted out by security.

McKie’s attorneys have argued that his Facebook may have been hacked and he did not post that status on his page.

The trial is expected to continue Tuesday. Wilson is expected to rest the prosecution’s case after final witness testimonies, including Anakin’s mother.

McKie’s attorneys will then give opening statements before presenting evidence and witnesses. 

Thunder on the Mountain brings a roaring good time to festival

TEHACHAPI — Going out with a noontime roar and winding down Tehachapi Mountain Festival weekend and its many activities is the Thunder on the Mountain Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show.

More than 260 cars and 50 motorcycles were positioned for viewing in downtown Tehachapi Sunday morning. Right at noon owners started up their vehicles an a deafening crescendo of heavy horsepower sounds filled the city with revving engines.

Noisy, yes, but all for a good cause.

“In the past, to date, shows have raised almost $500,000 that went to benefit local schools, charities, service organizations and veterans groups. It’s an important goal of our group to give back to our community,” show chairman Mike McHenry said.

Each vehicle entered is judged by class and condition and trophies are given out.

Firefighters contain Cummings Valley grass fire

Quick work by firefighters on Saturday kept a Cummings Valley grass fire contained to about five and a half acres, the Kern County Fire Department reported.

The noontime fire broke out in the 24000 block of Banducci Road, where crews initially arrived to an approximately one-acre fire in “light flashy fuels,” KCFD said in a news release.

A total of 38 personnel — on the ground and Helicopter 408 — got the fire contained in about two and a half hours. No injuries were reported.

The cause if under investigation, KCFD reported.

SOUND OFF: Why we paid attention to our ‘ignorant’ governor’s thoughts about oil

Reader: It’s very obvious the new owners of TBC are anti-oil, anti-Bakersfield and anti-Kern County. When an oil leak in McKittrick is front-page news (“Governor promises balanced approach after touring McKittrick-area oil leak,” July 25) I have to think newsworthy stories are not their focus. 

An oil leak in our coastal regions is newsworthy due to the environmental issues it creates. McKittrick is a desolate, oil-rich area. Many leaks have taken place over the past 50 years I’ve been in the business but I don’t recall any getting front-page news. What you call a “very significant” leak is sensationalism; an attempt to sell papers. A very liberal approach. Oil companies bring many tax dollars to Bakersfield and are also very civic-minded with donations to many causes. About time TBC supports their efforts with a more conservative approach.

I realize, at some point, that fossil fuels must be replaced by friendlier energy sources but that is going to take many years. I have lived all my life here and oil has supported my kids and grandkids. 

Might be nice to also publish the opinions of people who are in the oil and gas industry and have some knowledge on the impact of such a leak along with the opinion of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is ignorant on the subject. Running his opinion without publishing the facts based on information from people who know what they are talking about is what makes you “liberal media.”

— Denney Evans

Price: No, running the governor’s opinion on the McKittrick oil leak without publishing information from people who know what they are talking about would not make us “liberal media.” It might make us “irresponsible media.” That characterization doesn’t apply here either, though.

Newsom didn’t come to Kern County and spout his opinion about the McKittrick leak; he reiterated what he as governor sees as California’s energy future, and he seemed to concede that bringing his vision to fruition, at least as far as the Kern County oil industry is concerned, is wrought with challenges. I’m guessing you’d agree with that part. In any case, he is the governor and he has established policies and priorities that will impact this region in a significant way. To ignore his visit to the site of that oil leak would have been negligent on our part.

Your contention that we’ve failed to publish the industry’s side of this debate is equally absurd. I wonder if you’ve actually read the coverage you’re complaining about.

Our articles over the past two months have quoted the Western States Petroleum Association, the California Independent Petroleum Association, prominent local oilman Chad Hathaway, Chevron Corp., the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, and others including state Sen. Shannon Grove, who also penned an Aug. 11 op-ed, “Kern County’s way of life is under attack.”

This is indeed a “very significant” story, and not because of some oil leak. This is a pivotal time in Kern County’s economic history, and we should be writing more about it, not less.

John Cox, who has been heading up our coverage, adds this: “If Denney were to read those stories, he would see we have taken a far more balanced approach than other news media covering the same series of events. We at the newspaper have made clear just what’s at stake, and have pointed out as well that the leak has caused no environmental damage and that the problem is its symbolism and rallying-point significance.”

I’m amused, once again, that our alleged journalistic shortcomings — “sensationalism” in this case — earn us that great all-purpose insult, “liberal.” Any realistic assessment of “sensationalism” for the sake of selling newspapers begins and ends with the National Enquirer, whose now-former publisher, David Pecker, is an unabashed Trump supporter and morally bereft.

What we have here, Denney, is a classic case of shooting the messenger.

Reader: That was kind of a gloom-and-doom column in Sunday morning’s paper (“Is the end of Kern oil production really upon us? Sure sounds like it,” Aug. 11). It would make a simple-minded person want to sell everything they owned and head for greener pastures like Texas.

Maybe I am just a bit naive, but I find it really hard to believe that one, pretty green-behind-the-ears governor can arbitrarily pronounce the end to Kern County oil production. And also announce an abrupt end to the use of one of the most sought after, valuable and useful commodities the world has ever seen.

Didn’t we just spend billions of dollars and thousands of American lives fighting a war so that we could keep driving our oil-burning cars? And doesn’t California have more cars than any other state?

As you stated, our local oil fields are already the most regulated in the entire world. It would make more sense to me to shut down everybody else’s oil production first. And it would make more sense to me if this governor would provide special funding to find a suitable replacement for oil before he shuts off the one thing that has the ability to completely destroy our entire nation’s economy, bringing it to a grinding stop. Not to mention the world’s auto industry.

In my mind, first we need to find a suitable replacement. And then we need to let the open market decide if it makes good sense to make the switch. That’s what living in a free economy is about. Right?

— Kyle Carter

Price: I agree that column was pretty gloom and doom, but California has been making it tough for Kern County oil for many years. The elimination of fossil fuels can’t happen overnight but influential people are trying to make it happen. I believe you have accurately characterized the enormity of the economic challenge we’d be looking at. We need a plan — and Newsom needs to be part of it, as I think he acknowledges.

Reader: I have been reading the articles about the efforts to shut down the oil industry in California. I simply had to write. I went to work for Shell Oil Co. in Oildale in 1962. I retired from the industry in Texas in 2001. I had a wonderful career as a certified professional landman.

While I am no expert, I am aware of the many, many items we use in our daily lives that are made using petroleum products. Even some of our fabrics contain petroleum products, as do certain plastics.

I am sure that the general public is unaware of how their lives would be impacted if the industry in California was shut down.

Perhaps there is someone in your reading audience who can provide a list of the consumer items that would be lost if, indeed, the industry was shut down.

— Karene R. Williams

Price: Great idea. Anyone?

Reader: I am a senior citizen widow and Bakersfield Californian subscriber for many years. I always anxiously read the paper from cover to cover. One might say it was the highlight of my day.

Unfortunately, I no longer enjoy reading the paper because of the broadsheet format. Each morning I seem to have a wrestling match with the paper. Ugh! It wins every time!

— Loretta Martin

Price: I’ve seen people artfully fold the broadsheet down to a more manageable size. Practice! You’ll get used to it. We received many complaints a decade ago when we went to a tabloid format Monday through Friday. Change can be hard.

Reader: Almost five years ago I moved from Carson City, Nev., to this small town in the mountains halfway between Bakersfield and the Mojave Desert: Tehachapi. Needing a daily paper newspaper I subscribed to The Bakersfield Californian and happily discovered that you, sir, can write. Later I happened upon a column by one Leonard Pitts, of whom I had never heard.

I was struck by this guy (“Wow, he can write!”) and wrote an admiring note to inform him of this — and received a response thanking me. “Well,” I thought, “I’m glad I did that. He’ll be encouraged.” To my embarrassment I have learned that Leonard Pitts is a widely published voice of sanity and balanced judgment, articulating the truth weekly, here, in the midst of this “My Kevin” McCarthy bog. What Pitts says is loud and true, but that man can write! Loud and true are good but it’s the writing that gives life.

As an unreconstructed FDR supporter who, for instance, took great interest in the argument that Social Security would be socialism (!), I consider it brave, in this bog, that The (courageous) Bakersfield Californian continues to publish the Pitts column. (I copy this to Mr. Pitts so as to demonstrate my admiration of all involved.)

Thinking-and-thankingly yours on all counts,

— Janet P. Riggs

Price: Let me add my gratitude as well. And I agree: Pitts has a graceful and compelling style.

For those readers who might take issue with Pitts’ politics, I would recommend conservative columnist Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian and former George W. Bush speechwriter who wields common sense with uncommon authority.

‘In God We Trust’ arrives on Bakersfield city vehicles

In the hundred-degree heat of Thursday afternoon, pastor Angelo Frazier and members of Bakersfield public safety services sealed the deal on one of the most red-hot debates that has passed through local government this year.

In the parking lot between a southwest Bakersfield police and fire substation, Frazier plastered the first “In God We Trust” decal onto a police car, followed shortly afterward by Bakersfield City Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan, who put the decal on a fire truck.

Pointing out the small group of supporters who had come out to celebrate the event during a ceremony, Sullivan basked in the occasion that she had helped bring about.

“We have people that love God and love country and know how important this type of thing is to the long-term success of our country,” she said.

The decal, a postcard-sized American flag with the nation’s motto underneath, will be set onto police and fire vehicles, in a move that advocates say will encourage patriotism throughout the city, indicate support for public safety officers and remind residents of the “guiding principle” of the nation.

“I consider myself a yeasayer, not a naysayer,” Frazier said at the event, referencing the other entities across Kern County that have approved their own version of the stickers. “Yea Shafter (City Council) for approving this. Yea Delano City Council for approving this. Yea Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood for giving the OK for this. Yea for our national motto.”

The Bakersfield City Council approved adding the nation’s motto to police and fire vehicles in a 4-2 vote in June following a request by Frazier.

The vote generated much controversy, with those opposed to the decals saying that placing “In God We Trust” on city vehicles would violate the separation of church and state as well as force officers and firefighters that do not believe in God to display the symbols.

Delano was the first city in Kern County to add the decals to their police vehicles. The movement soon spread across the county.

Private donations paid for the decals, which were made by Javier Malta of West Coast Grafix.

Malta was on hand Thursday to watch his designs being placed on the vehicles.

“It’s a privilege and honor to serve the community and everybody else,” he said. “They called to ask me to help and I said, ‘I’m in 100 percent.’”

At the event, Frazier and Sullivan expressed their hope that “In God We Trust” would spread across the country.

At the end of the ceremony, Frazier pumped his hands into the air and yelled, “Onward to Sacramento!”

The real star of BC football media day? That new turf

The players looked good, the coach eager, the tri-tip sandwich vending trailer ready to deliver.

But the star of Bakersfield College’s Renegade Football Media Day event Wednesday was the lush green artificial turf newly installed on the floor of Memorial Stadium.

The Field Turf, as this particular product is known, gives the half-century-old stadium a freshness no amount of renovation could ever have achieved alone.

“It’s such a great accent,” head coach Jeff Chudy said of the bold green faux grass bracketed by the Renegade Red of the end zones. “Not that I’m an interior decorator.”

Athletic Director Sandi Taylor beamed.

“The people that I work with in the state (community college system), they’re so jealous,” she said.

And it’s all because, she said, voters gave their blessing to Measure J, the $502 million Kern Community College District bond that will not only have funded a Veterans Resource Center and administration building, among other structures on the Panorama Drive campus, but the new, NFL-caliber field turf and all-weather track.

BC’s new football turf is the same stuff used in the stadiums of the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints.

If a little of their mojo rubs off on the Renegades, Chudy is fine with it.

He is well aware that the new turf is more than a playing surface, though. It’s a recruiting tool, too. When visiting prospects come to the BC campus, they’re likely to be impressed with the stadium as well as the program’s history and place in the community.

“Once we get it all in there, it’ll be something,” Chudy said. “We have a chance to host some CIF state championship games, because of where we’re located within the state and what we’ve got here. We’ll have some (high school) players come through and take a look, and they’ll be impressed.”

The new turf is already paying some dividends: Memorial Stadium will host the state community college championship game this December and again in December 2010 — and, yes, Taylor would like to call both of them Renegade home games.

Chudy’s own players have not yet tried out the spongy-but-firm turf; that’ll have to wait until the all-weather track is complete, probably around the end the month, according to Associate Athletic Director Keith Ford.

Ryan Roeder of Wisconsin-based Worldwide Flooring, the contractor installing the all-weather track, said he expects to be finished in about a week. The Bakersfield heat, he said, demands special attention lest the track — the same product in use at UCLA — develop air bubbles.

Bakersfield College continues to lead the state community college system in football home attendance, drawing an average of 3,671 fans last season, well ahead of the second-place school, College of the Canyons.

The turf’s coming out party is Sept. 7, when the Renegades open the season against Mt. San Antonio College. Season tickets, which range from $35 to $60, are available online at, by phone at 322-5200 or in person at the Bakersfield College business office.

ROBERT PRICE: Don’t blame this high-volume drugstore in high-overdose community

The Kern River Valley has one of the most severe opioid problems in California. One particularly stricken burg in the area, Wofford Heights, has an opioid overdose rate five times the national average.

So, when a previously unreleased database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration showed that a busy rural pharmacy, The Drugstore in Kernville, has been buying and dispensing oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, two of the most abused and deadly opioids on the market, at what seemed an astounding rate, a phone call was in order.

Between 2006 and 2012, drug manufacturers shipped more than 6 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills to the bustling little mountain pharmacy on Piute Drive — enough for 870 pills per year for each of the 995 people who live within 5 miles of its front door.

That confluence of data points prompted an obvious question: What, if anything, might connect the two?

The Washington Post obtained the DEA’s national data on licensed pharmacies by court order on July 15, broke it down and on Sunday dropped some numbers. Among its findings: Over that seven-year period, 15 percent of U.S. pharmacies, about 1,000 of them, received 48 percent of pain pills, or about 100 million pills.

Some of the highest-volume dispensers of those two opioids are based in the same regions of the U.S. where opioid addiction and overdose are among the worst: West Virginia, Kentucky and southwestern Virginia.

The Kern River Valley is in their dismal company, led by Wofford Heights, which had 22.8 opioid overdoes per 100,000 residents in 2017, nearly five times the national figure.

Hold it right there, says Austin Horn, The Drugstore’s pharmacist. His pharmacy, he maintains, is being stigmatized by the study’s misleading parameters.

Pill-to-person ratios that establish a 5-mile radius as their basis — as the Post study does — might have some value in high-density areas where competition affords customers more choices, but The Drugstore fills prescriptions for customers for 50 miles around and has one solitary competitor 12 miles away, in another nearby town.

“We’re a high-volume pharmacy,” Horn said. “We service the whole area.”

But not high volume for opioids — at least not based on percentage of all drugs dispensed, according to Horn. Just 18 percent of prescriptions filled by The Drugstore are controlled substances, he said.

“That puts us on the low end of the scale,” Horn said. “So this study is a little bit skewed. It’s very misleading.”

He wouldn’t speculate on the root of the Kern River Valley’s opioid problem.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not the one who chooses what to prescribe to people.”

Neither can he track what happens to prescribed painkillers once they leave his store. 

That’s a trail worth following, though, and several states are doing so with billboard campaigns that warn parents about leaving their pain medication in accessible places such as bathroom medicine cabinets.

As a pharmacist, Horn knows this: State and federal regulatory agencies are looking over his shoulder with unprecedented scrutiny. 

“They’re all retired DEA agents, and they know their customers — us, the pharmacies — just like we know our customers,” the patients, he said.

Another factor in the Kern River Valley’s opioid overdose epidemic is its lack of a state-licensed narcotics treatment programs. As The Californian reported in 2017, none of the state’s 21 ZIP codes with the highest overdose rates has such a program. Few had opioid treatment programs within 40 miles.

California is in the process of rolling out a program, modeled after one developed in Vermont, that allows physicians to dispense buprenorphine, an addiction-fighting narcotic, through rural clinics or physicians’ offices working in collaboration with nearby opioid treatment programs. 

Lake Isabella currently has none of those treatment options.

The opioid addiction crisis has several points of entry: Among them, pharmaceutical companies, treatment protocols, prescribing physicians, dispensing pharmacies, uncautious parents, the black market, and uneven treatment opportunities.

Kernville’s pharmacist embraces regulatory scrutiny, but his message today is this: Nothing to see here.

Horn’s initial reluctance to talk about the pharmacy business didn’t stem so much from The Post’s exploration of the DEA’s data, he said, as this:

“We’re a family business, and we’re one of the only drugstores around; business is good,” he said. “We don’t need CVS knowing it’s a great place to do business. They’re ruthless.”

Police have limited enforcement powers to deal with those who camp in city parks

Jackie Cameron likes walking her dogs at Saunders Park, near Oak Street in central Bakersfield.

But these days she’s feeling less confident, now that two homeless encampments have been established at the city park.

“It’s seriously sketchy trying to walk dogs in this park,” she said in a Facebook post. “Just today it was me, two dogs and, like, six grown men who live there with nothing to lose. That’s not OK.”

OK or not, it may be the new reality in parts of Bakersfield, where many city residents are feeling powerless in the wake of increasing numbers of street people and homeless living on the sidewalks and alleys or haunting vacant buildings — and city parks like Saunders.

Cameron wrote on Facebook that she called police after 10 p.m. Sunday, with the understanding that the 10 p.m. park curfew would give police more power to move people out. But the camps remained.

Cameron did not reply to a message requesting an interview.

Sgt. Nathan McCauley, a spokesman for the department, said officers make contact with park dwellers regularly, but their hands are often tied when it comes to options.

They can arrest individuals who have outstanding warrants, but oftentimes they are left with handing out misdemeanor citations or just simply leaving them there.

And that’s what they did Monday.

“That doesn’t really fix the problem,” McCauley said.

In fact, police have been called to that park every day this month except Aug. 7.

“There have been changes in the law,” McCauley said. “Lodging in public is no longer an enforceable crime.”

However, trespassing on private property, public nuisance laws like sleeping on and blocking a sidewalk, park curfews, and other violations may give police more power to take action.

Ericka Thompson, 46, said she has lived at Saunders Park, on and off, for four years. But recently, someone has provided here with a place to live. She lost her job 11 years ago and became homeless with her two children.

“Everyone here,” she said of the encampment at Saunders, “is on the streets.

“It just takes one person to look past the stereotypes and see them for who they are.”

People say the homeless leave a mess, she said. But when crowds come to the park to play on the weekends, the litter they leave is bad.

“At times, it’s the public that comes to the park and thrashes it.”

Bakersfield City Councilman Andrae Gonzales has been responding regularly to the concerns of his constituents. There’s a lot in the works, he said, in an attempt to address the problem.

Eighty additional beds are headed to the two main homeless centers in Bakersfield. The city is hiring a crime analyst to help the police department better use limited resources. And thanks to tax dollars finally coming in from Measure N, police trainees are being prepared for duty as sworn officers.

“I signed up for this job. I believe it’s my duty to hear the concerns of people in my ward and push for solutions,” Gonzales said. “But it takes time.”