Buena Vista Park

We are asking the City of Santa Maria to set up a collaborative, consensus-building process with community members as a way to plan for new parks and renovate old ones.

The modern way of rejuvenating old parks calls for community involvement. There is a guide put out by the National Recreation and Parks Association called “Rejuvenating Neighborhoods and Communities Through Parks.” They recommend multiple meetings to arrive at a consensus on how to renovate a park and how to work together after the improvements. This type of collaboration not only improves parks, but also rejuvenates neighborhoods.

Plans have been drawn up that would remove the existing bell-shaped sidewalk and central circle that commemorate California's history. The four half-court basketball courts and all the picnic tables would also be removed. The five mature trees might also be removed if "they are in the way."

Please read my June 17, 2016 editorial at  http://www.sbcan.org/use_consensus_to_rejuvenate_city_parks and my May 6, 2016 editorial at  http://www.sbcan.org/keep_the_good_things_at_buena_vista_park for more details.

Also read Virginia Souza's May 3, 2016 editorial:  http://santamariatimes.com/news/opinion/editorial/commentary/guest_commentary/working-to-save-buena-vista-park-s-history/article_0b488458-f246-52c5-9ec7-b895e39fea76.html

Here's what the park looks like now, minus the trees in the upper righthand corner that the city has already removed:


Here's the city's proposal:


 Here's Buena Vista Beautifier's proposal. We would preserve the bell-shaped design and expand the basketball courts. The circle in the center would be converted to use for events. The playgrounds would move to the sides. An open area would remain in the middle for pick-up soccer and other field sports. Picnic tables would be scattered throughout for families to have private areas. A concrete area would remain where people could skate or play tetherball. A nature area would be added behind the Campfire Cabin, and group picnic areas could be revamped. This layout was done to scale, so the items placed here can actually fit.


Here is the city's design overlaid on ours. It is possible to accomplish what they are proposing without tearing out what is there. They have told us trees will be taken out "when they are in the way." You can see from this overlay that several trees "are in the way." Trees take years to become mature and provide the shelter needed for birds and shade desired by humans. The new park features should be designed around the trees, not in place of them. The playground area also wraps around the old bathroom, which will be closed, and it supplants a beautiful, mature tree. The play area could be designed away from the ugly bathroom and the tree, a favorite spot to sit under, could remain. They plan to add a lot of trees, but there was no consideration given to planting trees that would provide food or shelter for birds. Fruit trees were also eliminated as a possibility, although they could provide nutritious snacks for people living in the neighborhood.


Here's what we've been asking from the city:

Top Three Points

  1. Keep the existing amenities: the trees, the bell-shaped design of the walkway and the center circle (use it for events), the basketball courts and the picnic tables (disperse them around the park).
  2. Add innovative play structures for all ages of children and for those with disabilities.
  3. Add lighting for safety.

More Detail:

  • Save bell-shaped design and add a bell or two. The design was installed in the 70s to honor El Camino Real and California’s history. Buena Vista Park was deeded to the community in 1897 and turned over to the city in 1906. According to the city’s website, the purpose of creating landmarks is “to promote the general and economic welfare of the City by preserving and protecting those places, sites, buildings, structures, works of art and other objects having a special historical, cultural or aesthetic character or interest for the use, education and view of the general public, and to remind all residents of the City and visitors from elsewhere of the historical backgrounds of the City.”
  • Save the existing trees. The amenities the city wants to add can be added around existing trees. They are not “in the way.” Mature trees cannot be replaced with new trees. They take decades to grow to their full size.
  • Preserve the basketball courts and add more to make one or more full courts.
  • Move the playgrounds further away from the basketball courts to separate the adults from the children.
  • Install innovative playgrounds that will enhance learning, socializing and exercise opportunities for all ages and for persons with disabilities.
  • Design the park with features that will distinguish it from all other parks. What is its signature piece – a unique playground set perhaps, or historic bells, or …?
  • Have an area in the center with power outlets and lighting for special events.
  • Don’t close the entire park for seven months during the renovation. This is possible with our plan.
  • Stretch dollars farther by keeping existing amenities and adding to them.
  • Add trees and plants that enhance the environment for birds and butterflies. Add fruit trees for people.
  • Add bike racks, benches, serenity garden, perimeter walk/run, solar lights, fountains with dog bowls.
  • Perhaps a skating or biking area.
  • Create a nature area behind Camp Fire cabin.

The best thing the city could do is set up a collaborative process where ideas are discussed and fleshed out until a consensus can be derived with all stakeholders. The meetings that have been conducted have lacked the give and take and consensus building that makes for the best planning. We would hope the city would take a deep breath, get advice from their peers who have done consensus building (as detailed in the National Recreation and Parks Association's guide “Rejuvenating Neighborhoods and Communities Through Parks”) and redesign this park. The procedure that is established here could set the standard for other parks in the city that are not yet designed or renovated. Let's get the community involved in a meaningful, fulfilling way that rejuvenates parks and neighborhoods into the future.

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Santa Barbara County Action Network
Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) works to promote social and economic justice, to preserve our environmental and agricultural resources, and to create sustainable communities.