On June 2, about 100 supporters of the Elings Park Foundation gathered, appropriately enough, at Elings Park for its 22nd Chairman’s Council Party. The fog lifted and warm sunshine emerged before the start of this casual, fun event at the Cappello Picnic Area/Castagnola Softball Complex. The Chairman’s Council consists of the foundation’s major donors, but the public was also invited to the event.
After the reception hour, Board President Will Beall addressed the gathering, explaining how Elings Park is a privately funded park; it receives no government funding. It is open to the public and gets about 250,000 visitors per year. Beall thanked his staff and board and shared how “we do our best to keep this park part of Santa Barbara’s big backyard.”
The park has softball, rugby, lacrosse, baseball, soccer, tennis and other athletic faciliiies. It also offers beautiful settings for weddings, bar mitzvahs and corporate events. Dog walkers, joggers, mountain bikers, BMX enthusiasts, hang gliders and paragliders all enjoy the park.
Board Member Mike Warren recognized some of the many “heroes” who have supported the park: The Cappello Family, Roger Horton, the Castagnola Family, Danny Vickers, George Bliss, Bob Kallman, Ken Hunter, the Battistone Foundation, Fenton Davison (with a $1.2 million donation), the Santa Barbara Softball Club, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the Ann Tweed Tuohy Foundation.
The park is named in honor of Virgil Elings, who donated $1.5 million to the park in 1999, his former wife, Betty Wells, who gave $800,000, and other family members.
Executive Director Mike Nelson pointed to the importance of open spaces to urban populations and recognized that the creation of Elings Park is “a powerful example of civic imperative, pride and engagement.” He thanked everyone for their support in the past and asked them for support once again to enable the Park to restore the facilities and roads in North Park and to develop the South Park. Warren succinctly summed up the current situation: “The great news is that we have been open to the public for 32 years, the bad news is that everything is at least 32 years old.”
According to Nelson, all of the facilities have deferred maintenance needs. At the top of the list are repairing and resurfacing the entrance road, upgrading the bathrooms, upgrading the softball field lighting, and refurbishing the pathways.
After the short program, the Doublewide Kings performed lively tunes. Guests enjoyed an all-American dinner featuring three kinds of burgers and the fixings and then filled the dance floor. Lead vocalist and guitar player Palmer Jackson not only provided the event’s music, he also runs the Ann Jackson Family Foundation, another major supporter of Elings Park.
The main part of Elings Park, accessible from Las Positas Road, is the North Park and comprises 94 acres of land leased from the City of Santa Barbara. It opened to the public in 1985. The parcel that comprises the 133-acre South Park was acquired in 1994. It is undeveloped land that is used by joggers, dog walkers, mountain bikers, paragliders and hang gliders.
The foundation has about a $1 million operating budget, 75 percent of which it generates from user fees and facility rental fees, with the remainder coming from grants and fundraising events. There is no admission charge to the park, though dog owners must purchase a pass (700 dogs are members) and there is a parking fee on weekends. About 50 weddings are held here each year. Softball is especially popular here, with about 70 softball leagues playing during each of three seasons.
For more information about Elings Park, go to www.elingspark.org.
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By Gail Arnold