SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Donkeydell Park, tucked away beneath a cover of massive eucalyptus trees behind the neighborhoods in the Andover tract, is one of Bennington Vale's oldest fixtures, having had its sod laid before construction on the first homes began in the late 1960s. While most residents in San Narciso visit the county's sprawling recreational areas to swim, play tennis, exercise, ride horses or just enjoy a warm day in a beautiful setting, the teens of Bennington Vale seldom stray from Donkeydell Park. Despite its unfortunate name -- the origins of which have remained a source of dispute and mystery for decades -- and its deceptively dingy appearance, Donkeydell endures as a secret oasis to those who seek it out. The field is a rolling swath of green, the length of two football fields. Father back, several tree houses, a wooden fort and a concrete pit that might have been intended for a pool can be found. Donkeydell also has a much richer history for the community's high schoolers, most of whom lost their virginity amid the squalid jungle gyms. But now, city officials want to close it down. Local teens say they won't let that happen without a fight.
An Eyesore and Magnet for Unwholesome Activities
The entrance to Donkeydell doesn't offer much to the untrained eye, with its incomplete playground and strange wooden sign -- which depicts a hobbled jackass pinned down by a fallen tree and a farmer attempting to help it stand by whipping its haunches and pushing its backside with his pelvis -- but like everything else in the city, nothing is what it seems.
Mayor Manny DiPresso, however, believes the park is exactly what it seems: a dilapidated, unfinished project that's taking up valuable land the county could reallocate to more profitable real estate ventures.
"Donkeydell is an eyesore and just a weird place to visit," DiPresso said. "I drove past it late one night and saw a guy with an ice cream cart out front, ringing a melancholy little bell in the dark. It was close to midnight. What could be more unwholesome than that?"
As far as the condition of the park, DiPresso explained: "My understanding is that much of it was abandoned when funding came in to build the Lake Inverarity recreational area -- a much more impressive facility. Donkeydell is an empty, outdated waste of land. It doesn't even get any sunlight because of the excessive tree cover. Then there's that odor. Some idiot city planner decided to plant Bradford pear trees all along the periphery, so the place always smells like a bath house near a beach at low tide...on a humid day."
Donkeydell also abuts the orange groves that dominate the property of the infamous Inverarity estate. The park's proximity to this dense and otherwise inaccessible orchard has made it a haven for rapists.
"If folks stopped going there and wandering too close to the Inverarity's land -- and we all know about the questionable breeding situation with the family's heirs -- then the papers would quit reporting on the constant discovery of mutilated remains and sexually battered girls who, for some reason, always seem to be employed by Abercrombie and Fitch," DiPresso added. "It's giving people in other cities the wrong impression of our suburban splendor. For God's sake, we're not Hollister or Fontana, but it's easy to draw parallels with this smut finding its way into the news."
Other prominent members of the community, who agree with DiPresso about Donkeydell being the armpit of the county, also doubt the purity of his motives. They suspect he's plotting to turn the park into a HUD housing zone to profit off the tax incentives.
Mike Fallopian, Yoyodyne executive and chairman of the conservative Peter Pinguid Society, lives near Donkeydell and sees no improvements arising from creating a low-income housing area.
"Nobody's a fan of rape, but what can you do about it?" Fallopian said. "And it doesn't happen all the time. It probably wouldn't happen at all if girls who worked at the mall dressed more modestly. I mean, this year the incidence rates dropped from eight to three girls a month. But if we start allowing poor people to live in exclusive communities, rape will be the least of our worries. We'll be facing home invasions, robberies, property devaluation, Korean grocery stores, ethnic restaurants, and maybe Baptist or Catholic churches going up. We already have a Catholic church and a Taco Bell. I'd rather live with the occasional Donkeydell rape."
Park Integral Part of Childhood Memories
The adults can argue the merits or dangers of Donkeydell until they turn blue in the face, but Bennington Vale teens claim the park as an integral aspect of their transition from children to adults.
"Apart from my priest, which doesn't count, Donkeydell Park is where I lost my virginity," Roger Tresdon, 15, told The Bennington Vale Evening Transcript.
His girlfriend Treena, 17, described a similar experience, except with a camp counselor and not a priest. More importantly, she also had her first legitimate sexual encounter at Donkeydell Park. "Everyone I know did it at Donkeydell first. I lost my innocence there too, in that muddy wood fort with Tobias Bernson. And his stupid friend Brad, but only because he said he had some meth. Which he didn't. It wasn't great, but it prepared me for more meaningful sexual encounters I would have later. All at Donkeydell."
"You can't do anything around this lame town without your parents bearing down on you," Tresdon continued. "They don't want you to grow up until the day they ship you off to Stanford or USC or Yale. And they can't relate to us. Donkeydell is the only place we can go to experiment, to learn and to move from puberty to maturity. This is our rite of passage, especially since they installed those surveillance cameras in the school parking lot and under the bleachers."
Tresdon and nearly 20 other teens have organized a group to demonstrate in front of City Hall to preserve not only Donkeydell Park but its legacy and influential role in helping shape their young lives.
2014. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.