KEARNS, Utah – A place where families would gather to watch baseball fell to the wayside in Kearns, bringing crime to the area.
Now 20 years later, Bruce Fields--located at 4290 West 4865 South--has a new look.
Leslie Dejong, the President of the Kearns Pony Baseball League, coached baseball at Bruce Fields in the '90s. Since then, he said players stopped coming and the park lost its luster.
“It's kind of a bittersweet thing because when the kids quit coming to baseball in this area, everything just fell apart,” Dejong said.
Fields of weeds, garbage and graffiti covered the park--which soon became a haven for drug dealers and gangs.
“People would see kids out here and they would think, 'What? They're up to no good' so here comes the cops,” says Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder.
Dejong and his wife Looky tried to revitalize the park on their own for years.
In 2014, they turned to Salt Lake County. Leaders solicited help from Salt Lake Honorary Colonels, a group of citizens who donated money and resources for the $650,000 renovation.
They cleared the fields in spring of 2014, and Wednesday kids joined leaders in kicking off a celebration of the park's new look.
“Kids are going to come out and play soccer and be healthy and active and families are going to come and have fun,” says Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
Police said people should have more pride in the park, and drive crime out.
Sheriff Winder said the park is already making a difference in the community.
“In this area in 2013-2014, we had crimes exceeding 16 to 1800," he said. "We just pulled the statistics for this area for this last year to date, and we are at 700.”
For the Dejongs, they want the once forgotten park to become a gathering place again, for years to come.
“My hope is for the next generation of kids that they will enjoy and appreciate this and they will take care of it,” Looky Dejong said.
Salt Lake County leaders are inviting the neighborhood to come celebrate at Bruce Fields this Saturday for food, fun, and games.