Feb 9, 2024 - News

The history of Neal Petties Mountain View Community Park

A brick base with a plaque where a statue once stood at a grassy park.

The former location of "The Black Family" statue by artist Rossie Wade. Photo: Andrew Keatts/Axios

Neal Petties Mountain View Community Park now bears the name of a famous neighbor and mentor who "was always the man at the park [and] made sure nothing happened to none of us kids," according to community member Jeffrey Hayes, who led the effort to rename the park last year.

Why it matters: Petties is best known nationally as a football star, but locally, he was a beloved mentor to neighborhood kids.

Context: Petties died in June in National City after a long bout with Alzheimer's.

  • The city renamed the park in July.

Flashback: Petties was a football star at San Diego High School and San Diego State University before playing three years in the NFL for the Baltimore Colts.

  • He then came home and worked for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, where he organized youth programs, booked concerts and staged car shows at the park that now bears his name.

Zoom in: For community members of a certain age, few moments of park lore compare to Muhammad Ali's visit in 1967.

State of play: The park is about to be home to another piece of vital community history.

  • California State Assembly member Akilah Weber secured $195,000 in state funds last year to restore and rebuild "The Black Family," a historic statue by Rossie Wade that was installed in the park in 1974. Only a plaque and the sculpture's empty base remain.
  • "The statue was one place in the community where Black families could see themselves in public art in a positive light," Weber said when she announced the funding.

What's happening: Neal Petties Mountain View Community Park is hosting will host a Black history celebration Saturday, Feb. 17, from 11am to 3pm.

The plaque at the base of the statue that's being restored.

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