Starting next month, a free movie night program will debut at Bohnett Park on the City of Santa Barbara’s Westside as part of an ongoing campaign to make that park — long seen as a gang hangout — more inviting to neighborhood families. The kid-friendly series kicks off Wednesday evening, July 9, with the screening of Frozen, followed the next week by Free Willy, and Finding Nemo the week after that. Residents are invited to pack their own picnic dinners, but the Santa Barbara School District’s food truck will be on hand for those who don’t. No alcohol or glass containers will be allowed.
Free summertime films have long been a staple of the Courthouse Sunken Gardens, and they’ve taken place elsewhere, like La Cumbre Junior High School. Mark Alvarado, neighborhood director with the City of Santa Barbara, said the new series is part of collective effort undertaken by City Hall, La Cumbre Foundation, United Way, and the Santa Barbara Rotary Club to rehabilitate Bohnett Park. It started in earnest last year with the installation of a new lighting system.
“It’s a whole different park than it was five years ago,” Alvarado said, explaining that the new lights have fostered a surge in after-dark activities like soccer, handball, and basketball. “It’s all about attracting more families,” he said. Bohnett Park serves as the only park for the Westside, which includes some of the poorest, most densely populated neighborhoods in town.