Craig Gilbert (right) met with Ortega Park neighbors to encourage them to use the park.

Wally Hofmann

Craig Gilbert (right) met with Ortega Park neighbors to encourage them to use the park.

Ortega Park Update

On a Saturday in November, one of the longtime, regular users of Ortega Park, Craig Gilbert, went door-to-door to let neighbors know that he was going to do his best to help “bring back a place where the kids could be welcomed back to use their park.”

That afternoon, several dozen neighbors and family members of the daily park users were invited back to spend the afternoon at the park in a unified show of support for creating a safe environment for the kids and users of all ages.

It was totally Craig’s idea to knock on the park neighbors’ doors and express his hope — and he is to be commended for taking this first step. The fact is there is still illegal consumption of alcohol; however, it is inspiring to witness his humility and desire to begin trying to bring back a safe, active, and fun place for the kids. Every neighbor he met expressed appreciation and offered support.

Of course, ending illegal behavior is the first step in welcoming back the kids. We all realize that not every user — transient, homeless, or any users of the park — is misusing the park. As with most situations like this, it’s a few bad apples that spoil it for the rest.

But is truly inspiring to see Craig reaching out his hand to find those to work together to try and be part of a solution — and part of the solution is for local residents to come back and use the park. As law enforcement said at last month’s community meeting, “If anyone sees illegal behavior report it immediately by calling 9-1-1.”

Click to enlarge photo

Wally Hofmann

The goal continues to be to welcome all users of Ortega Park who obey park rules and respect other’s right to enjoy it.

And a big shout-out goes to the City of Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department for the grass reseeding now underway. Thank you!

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