Saying they were sick of seeing crime and abusive behavior at San Lorenzo Park's playgrounds and duck pond, a group of mothers and kids have organized Tuesday get togethers of what they are calling "Stroller Love."
"We're just people reclaiming their community," said Stephie Tucker, one of the organizers. "There doesn't need to be a program at Parks and Rec. It's just people coming out and supporting each other."
And there lies the problem, they say. They feel they need support because of some of the other people who use the park for illegal or unseemly purposes.
In the five Tuesdays they've been meeting from 10 a.m. to noon, the mothers say they have seen drug deals and a bicycle theft ring chopping up stolen bicycles for parts. They have also seen abusive homeless or mentally ill people yelling at their children.
"This is my first time at this park," said Carly LaFont, who brought her 3-year-old twin girls to play on the dragon. "I never felt safe here."
Looking over at a man who was crashed out in a makeshift campsite near the playground, she said, "You wouldn't see that at Vasona Park in Los Gatos."
Mayor Don Lane showed up to support the movement and ended up watching the duck feeding and banging on a drum accompanied by a children's impromptu band.
"I'm not sure what they would do in Los Gatos about this," he said of the sleeping man. "What is he doing that is any different than someone having a picnic?"
It goes to the root of the problem in Santa Cruz, a city known for its temperance for the down-and-out and favors lending a helping hand over jailing people because of their economic situtation.
But sometimes, say the mothers, it seems to go too far. For example, two children last year found a syringe in the park and started playing doctor with it, said Analicia Cube, one of the founders of Take Back Santa Cruz.
"Every parent has their incident," said Cube, who brought her two young children. "And slowly, slowly there are no parents willing to come to the park."
Elaine Olsen lives in the senior housing complex across from the park and said that most of her neighbors are afraid to come there. She is trying to merge them with the young parents and children to make the park a more healthy environment for both groups.
She envisions a program where the seniors can read to the kids.
One woman passing by from the center gave some hope that things could change.
"It's great seeing these kids feeding the ducks," she said.