It’s common knowledge that the appearance of the city of Lompoc leaves a lot to be desired. Trash blows around, graffiti is on utility boxes, and there are walls and large trash cans in every corner of town. The homeless leave piles of their residue everywhere, and their “camps” in the riverbed and behind commercial buildings are significant fire and health hazards.

Long abandoned businesses dot the main commercial corridors with their poorly kept landscaping and collections of trash that also contribute to the mess. Some residents contribute to the overall “trashy look” of the place with makeshift sheds erected in front yards, rusted-out and oxidized cars parked in their yards and poorly maintained landscaping.

Our city government seems powerless to keep the city a neat and orderly place to live.

On April 20, the City Council approved an annual resolution “Declaring Public Nuisance by Virtue of Weed Growth and/or the Accumulation of Rubbish, Debris and/or Dirt on Private Property.” City properties were not identified on the seven pages of errant properties, even though many city-maintained spaces clearly fit into the category of a place where “growth has become large and sufficiently dry to be a fire menace, or which are otherwise noxious or dangerous, or likely to become noxious or dangerous during the pending dry season.”

One of those is the Riverbend Park walking, jogging and biking trail, which is part of an open space in the northeast portion of the city. The trail was constructed several years ago after the City Council approved the use of grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation and used matching funds from the city. A monument on the trail honors those council members for their support.

The land for the trail system was acquired when Caltrans abandoned a project proposed several decades ago to route Highway 1 around Lompoc following the riverbank from near Highway 1 and Highway 246 to Central Avenue. The city was given the property to use as open space when it became excess to the state.

Hundreds of people walk, run or bike on this trail each week. The homeless use this as their “highway” to transport trash and recyclable materials to their camps along the riverbank.

Recently, following the council’s weed abatement resolution, I noted that the surrounding open space consisted of several acres of chest-high weeds that covered the open space and a monument erected to recognize the City Council members who approved the Riverbend Park project; a complaint was lodged with the city and either city employees or a contractor mowed down the weeds.

But I noticed that the monument was still hidden in the chest-high growth of weeds almost two weeks after the weeds were mowed. The reason: When parks and recreation folks cut the open space, they apparently didn’t take an extra five minutes to use a weed whacker to trim around the monument.

I notified senior city officials, and this is the reply I got: “This has been cleaned up. Please note that the cutting is done in crews. One crew will use the big riding mowers, and another will come back later for the detail cleanup. It may not be the same day, as the detail cleanup takes longer to accomplish, but it will happen.”

This was a discouraging response. I didn’t tell them about their oversight until almost two weeks after the weeds were cut. Secondly, it begs the question: Isn’t the tractor operator qualified to operate a weed whacker? Perhaps it was just out of his/her job description or the result of poor planning on the part of the park system manager to have crews finish the job before they move on to another one.

Well, some of the weeds have now been removed, but only from three sides of the monument. Maybe the weed whacker ran out of gas or the person using it thought that completing 75% of the job was better than nothing. And there doesn’t appear to have been an effort to trim under the trees near the wooden fences surrounding homes.

If someone did a job like this at my house, I wouldn’t pay them and certainly wouldn’t hire them for any more work.

The five council members whose names appear on the monument each dedicated many years of service to our city as appointed and elected officials; two of them have since passed away. For the city to disrespect them in this way is disgraceful and indicative of an overall lack of interest in keeping the city a nice place to live or to recognize the contributions of past political leaders.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving for 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions, retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.