Cities fix potholes, ensure public safety, do land use planning, and have parks and recreation departments. Except that Goleta does not have this last item – parks, yes, but recreation programs for children and adults, no, not yet. When the city incorporated, it inherited the programs and funding that the county previously provided, and counties do not traditionally provide recreation programs. This is a gap the city is now trying to fill.
There are, of course, many activities happening in Goleta: elementary and junior high sports programs, thanks to cooperation between the schools and the City of Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department; non-profit soccer, baseball, softball, and basketball leagues; Girsh Park, Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc., and YMCA programs. But during the city’s strategic planning process, recreation still came out as a high priority. So the city has now hired a consultant to inventory what is currently available and how accessible the programs are, especially to low-income families. The goal is to establish a city sponsored recreation program in the future.
To get a sense of what might be offered, I visited our close neighbor, Isla Vista, which has an Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVPRD). Overseen by an elected board, the IVRPD has a total of 25 public parks and open spaces in approximately one square mile. It is said to be the most densely populated area west of the Mississippi and there are many low-income families with children living there. The parks range from the Camino Corto Open Space, of several acres, to pocket parks spread throughout the district. Many of them have playground equipment, including a climbing boulder in one and an open-air ping-pong table in another. There are volleyball courts and disc golf courses, a community garden, and an orchard with fruit-producing trees.
The recreation programis centered on Children’s Park on Camino Del Sur and Picasso Road. With a limited staff, they offer an extraordinary array of programs: daily after-school arts and crafts, sports, recreational games (jump rope seems to a big item), and competitions. The IVRPD is able to take advantage of its proximity to UCSB for summer swim programs and swimming lessons in the spring, as well as sports and cultural programs.
A hiking and exploration club last year took kids on 26 excursions to places like Nojoqui Falls, Lake Los Carneros, the Ellwood Monarch grove, Knapp’s Castle, UCSB Marine Science Lab, and further afield, to Magic Mountain. In addition, there were trips to cultural events including movies, concerts, dance performances, storytelling, and theater. There were monthly wood-working workshops at Home Depot, which provided precut pieces and nails for various projects. The kids got there by walking from IV. Quite a hike!
The highlight of the year was taking 16 children ranging from 10 to 17 years of age to Sequoia National Park, where the kids went hiking, swimming, and boating, volunteered with the U.S. Forest Service nursery by mulching and watering forest saplings and other chores, and heard ranger talks on giant sequoias, air pollution, and forest fires.
Community service is also part of the program with “Adopt-a-Block” and “Adopt-a-Park” clean-ups. High school students help these and other programs to earn their community service credits.
The recreation director Anne Aziz says that these programs have reached more than 400 I.V. kids and 193 families. They are free for all participants, There are many families with young children that live in Isla Vista and benefit from these many opportunities. And it is good to know that many UCSB students are a resource and a model for these kids.
If Isla Vista can do all this, why not Goleta? The answer is, at least in part, money. The IVRPD was formed in 1972 – an outgrowth of the community ferment of that time. It secured a 50 cents per $100 assessment on the property tax, and while that was greatly reduced in 1978 after the passage of Prop. 13, there is a dedicated revenue stream to the district for park maintenance and recreation. The district also has formed a benefit assessment district and gets grant funds from a number of sources both for park acquisition and operational expenses.
IVPRD has resources which are not readily available to Goleta. They have also been doing this for a long time. But positive and enriching recreation activities are part of the fabric that makes a community. Anne Aziz states that these activities “provide opportunities to build strong bodies, create character, and empower the children of the community.”
Goleta needs this too. The council has made this a high priority and that is the important first step.