Community Hero: America Diaz treats Scripps Park like ‘it’s my house’
For the past eight years, San Diego Parks & Recreation Department employee America Diaz has been assigned to La Jolla’s Scripps Park and considers it her personal mission to keep it looking as clean and vibrant as possible.
For the better part of 15 years, five days a week, San Diego Parks & Recreation Department employee America Diaz has set foot at the city’s shoreline parks with one job: to make them look better. For the past eight years, she has been assigned to La Jolla’s Scripps Park and considers it her personal mission to keep it looking as clean and vibrant as possible.
“Me and my workers maintain the trash, pick up litter and would clean the bathrooms as best we could when the bathrooms were open,” she said (Scripps Park’s former restroom facility has been demolished and is being rebuilt). “I like to keep the park clean because it reflects the person I am. If there is trash all over, I’m not doing my job. Because I’m there for most of each day, I feel like it’s my house.”
She also routinely cuts the grass, repairs sprinklers and makes other minor fixes.
“I want people to come and enjoy the parks,” she said. “I want them to enjoy their day and not look at trash all over the place. I want people to say how nice it is to come here.”
Diaz started with the city in Ocean Beach and at Belmont Park in Mission Beach before transferring to Scripps Park. Despite being a San Diego native, Diaz never visited the beach or San Diego shoreline parks until she took the job.
“When I started working I felt like I was at a candy store,” she said. “My parents would take us to Tijuana on vacation, but we never came here. The first time I saw the sea lions at The Cove, I was shocked. I never thought we would have those so close. Now, I consider it a blessing that every day I get to come and have the best view. I feel the breeze on my face and see the water and I feel like I’m in a good spot.”
The job is not without its challenges, however. Though Diaz said she tries to use leaf blowers and other mechanical equipment early in the morning when there are fewer park-goers, she tends to get complaints.
“I try to remind people we will be done as soon as we can and that if we don’t do it, the cleanup won’t get done,” Diaz said.
The old restroom facility was often a mess, she said. “Cleaning the bathroom was a challenge. They were old, and people left a mess and then would complain about it. Not having the bathrooms to clean gives me time to do the other jobs I need to do.”
Diaz said she wishes park-goers would take better care of the trees.
“People climb them, tie hammocks and things to them, but these trees are old and they are getting destroyed,” she said.
La Jollan Bill Robbins, who voluntarily helps keep the park clean and patrols the area, said Diaz is “always on time” and “treats the park like it’s her own.”
“It’s not just a place she shows up at; she loves it,” he said. “On her two days off, sometimes they will send people to fill in for her and they don’t get as much done as she does. She works smart and hard. If she sees something that needs to be fixed, she’ll work until it’s fixed.”
The La Jolla Light’s Community Heroes series for the holiday period highlights people who aren’t often in the news but make a difference in the lives of others. Nominations for this past holiday season have closed. ◆
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