Which is the oldest park in Santa Maria? Do you know how it started and why it spurred incorporation of the city?
Here is a hint. It has to do with the Minerva Club, the Morrison family and it was a gathering place for May Day and July 4th celebrations in the 1890s and early 1900s. The 4.03-acre park has a Camp Fire Cabin, a playground, horseshoe pits, barbecue pits, basketball courts and picnic tables. Tall eucalyptus trees shade one area. There are some older shade trees and several young trees that will provide shade in the future.
It is west of the Santa Maria Inn, north of Santa Maria High School and the Fairpark, and east of the Good Samaritan Shelter. Its address is 800 S. Pine Street.
It’s Buena Vista Park.
It played a key role in the city’s formation, because the Ladies Literary Society, now the Minerva Club, wanted a permanent water supply for the site, which could only be provided if the city could attain a clear title to the deed through incorporation.
Amanda and Ezra Morrison sold the property to the town in 1897 for $300. The town incorporated in September 1905, and the title cleared five months later. The site was dedicated as Buena Vista Park on Feb. 8, 1906, and a water line was installed shortly thereafter.
In November 2013, Virginia Souza and Heather Weare began gathering community members, including me, neighbors and high school students to discuss how to improve the park.
The Buena Vista Beautifiers includes community groups, businesses, members of the City Council, Recreation and Parks Department staff, and Police Department staff. Committee member Hazel Davalos suggested the name for the committee.
On April 23, the group held a Spring Party to reach out to neighbors who live near the park. About 50 kids and 30 adults attended the event, which included the Easter Bunny, craft tables, music, free refreshments, toys and free vegetable seedlings.
Santa Maria High School students who are members of the Hands and Feet group took surveys of 34 of the park visitors. Ages of respondents ranged from 18 to over 70, 32 lived nearby, 32 said they had small children, 31 take their children there to play, most walk to the park, 11 of them also ride bikes to the park. A whopping 65 percent of them volunteered to help improve the park.
Some of the things they would like in the park include a cleaner, renovated or bigger playground, more play areas, soccer fields, water fountains, security, a baby changing station, more lights, trees, swings, benches, picnic tables and a tot lot. They also would like more community events.
Members of the committee have been gathering these and other ideas to consider including adding exercise stations, bike racks, a community garden, a bulletin board for community events, an off-leash dog area and public art. Other possibilities are supporting Good Samaritan Shelter’s after-school programs, literacy programs for adults and sprucing up the Camp Fire Cabin. They are looking at making the park environmentally friendly.
We should have local parks area residents are happy to walk and bike to, rather than having to drive to other parks.
Members of the group will attend the Recreation and Parks Commission meeting next Tuesday, May 13, to discuss park improvements. If you have ideas on what you’d like to see at this centrally located park, please get involved with Buena Vista Beautifiers. Find out about their meetings and events on their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/buenavistasm.
Ken Hough is executive director of SB CAN. He can be reached at [email protected]. Looking Forward runs every Friday providing a progressive viewpoint on local issues.