During a walk through Isla Vista’s downtown parks I found out an uncomfortable truth. Anisq’ Oyo’, Perfect, and People’s parks weren’t being used by the groups they were mainly designed to accommodate. Students, I.V. householders, and children were nowhere to be found. The only people I could see making use of these beautiful areas were homeless individuals and construction workers on their lunch break.
Jeff Lindgren, general manager of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD), happened to be along with me on this walk. He said that the IVRPD had made efforts to create a more inviting space in Anisq’ Oyo’, Perfect, and People’s parks, but they still aren’t getting the use they could be.
Lindgren pointed to the fact that the ground at Perfect Park, whose hilly and foliage-covered geography provided a space for people to hide and engage in unsavory activities, had been leveled to provide an open and inviting space for residents. But the residents still don’t use it. Parks like Little Acorn, which is across the street, are much more popular. There, you can often find people playing frisbee or other games on the grass, or sitting on the benches enjoying their bagel and coffee.
While figuring out how to make the parks appealing to the masses might seem like an easy problem to fix, this is actually a complex issue. Locals avoid certain parks because they are frequented by the homeless and by drug-users who carelessly discard their needles after shooting up.
Take Anisq’ Oyo Park, for example. There is a group of apparently homeless people who often sit on benches across the street from the liquor store. In the past, there have been efforts to discourage their getting drunk there by asking businesses to refuse to sell alcohol to them, but this is not going to stop the truly dedicated from finding a way to get drunk.
With two new housing complexes going up in I.V., the Loop Isla Vista and the Icon, there will be more students making the downtown area their own. This is the time to figure out a way to make the three underused parks in the area more appealing and an inviting places for a wider variety of people to spend time.
The key to this problem is cooperation. Students, both from UCSB and Santa Barbara City College, should be involved in finding a solution to this challenge. In the future, these parks could be filled with areas to play games, as well as artwork and other features that would make them a great place to be. But before any of this can happen, the question of why the parks are not being used needs to be addressed.
Just as with other types of challenges, crowd sourcing might be the answer. By using Facebook, Twitter, or other sources to gain input into the issues, problems might be tackled and solved. There is a great untapped wealth of enthusiasm, intelligence, and creativity at both UCSB and SBCC that needs to be unleashed to find solutions to I.V.’s challenges. By working together, students and other local residents might find a way to create a great public space for everyone in the community.