As seniors with limited mobility take their turns playing bocce ball in the Apple Hill neighborhood park in Brentwood, their teammates must help them safely step into the courts because the handrails are out of reach.
Meanwhile, at Brentwood's other set of bocce ball courts in Veterans Park, narrow walkways between the four courts leave older players without adequate space to score and monitor games on the middle courts.
Because of the design, one middle court sits unused, and many of the bocce ball players say that all of the courts need to be resurfaced and better maintained because they are not level.
With the weather already heating up at 10 a.m., several of the players at both parks were using their own oversized umbrellas for protection from the glaring sun. Although they enjoy the social interaction and camaraderie of the popular Italian sport, many of the seniors in the city-run program say the courts were poorly designed and are especially unsafe for seniors.
"We suffer out here in this kind of heat, and when people are slightly handicapped, it is very dangerous," bocce ball player Glenora Corbin said. "It was poorly planned. They didn't take seniors into consideration when planning it."
Team captain Gil Dominguez said at least three players have fallen and suffered minor injuries because of design flaws.
More agile seniors can get around the courts, but those with limited mobility can easily lose their balance,
"You can't walk through here unless you have really good balance," he said. "They did not think of the safety hazards."
Brentwood parks maintenance manager Roger Stromgren admitted that design flaws were not noticed by the city and some of the bocce ball players involved in forming the league when the courts were built in 2004.
He added that the pathways between the middle courts should be 5 to 6 feet in width just like those around the perimeter of the courts.
"There are some needs out there," Stromgren said. "There is just no money to start new projects."
Dominguez says the courts in neighboring communities like Pittsburg, Martinez and Antioch were planned much better. Some Brentwood bocce ball enthusiasts like the low fees for the fall and spring seasons of bocce ball, but Dominguez would prefer better court conditions.
"I would rather have higher fees and good courts to play on," he said.
Because one of the courts at Veterans Park is unused, an additional game takes place at 10:30 a.m. every Thursday after the morning round to accommodate all of the teams in the popular recreational league that often has a wait list. Even at midmorning, the warm weather in Brentwood makes it difficult for some seniors to play the outdoor sport.
"A lot of seniors can't take that heat due to medicine or medical issues," player Kathy Cross said.
Stromgren said the courts are maintained at least once weekly, but the city has only five maintenance workers spread among Brentwood's 65 parks.
"There is not a lot of time to renovate and repair," he said. "It is tough to accommodate everyone and make everyone happy."
Stromgren said the city might be able to address the maintenance issues and add crushed oyster shells to the courts for a more even surface. He also suggested that some of the problems could be resolved through fundraisers and volunteer labor if the seniors would help coordinate that effort.