I am a 27-year Isla Vista resident, born and raised in this beautiful place. COVID-19 brought me back from Italy, and I am following the controversy over our downtown park. My unconventional I.V. childhood is full of wonderful memories of surfing all day, swimming at the faculty club or RecCen, and eating pizza at Giovanni’s.
Sadly, some of the moments I recall most distinctly from when I was a little girl are dangerous encounters with the transients in the parks and open spaces of Isla Vista.
Even now, I will not run around the lagoon alone; I will not enter Isla Vista’s central park alone; I will not walk on the same side of the street as one of those big yellow buses I took to school. Those are some of my parents’ rules that remain with my siblings and I to this day.
I loved to play in the “dinosaur” park across the street from my home. One day a friend and I were playing when a man, unclothed from the waist down, emerged from the trees behind us. We sprinted home crying, and my friend never played at my house again. From that point onward my beloved dinosaur park was not the same.
For my entire childhood, AnisqOyo Park, its public restrooms, and the nearby streets were monopolized by transients. I could play on the Purple Dinosaur or ride down the “Big Girl Slide” (now gone) but only if my parents wiped them off first and watched my sisters and I the entire time.
Selling Girl Scout cookies in front of I.V. Market was great because students love Thin Mints and always want to buy from a little girl. That turned south fast once scary, drunk, panhandlers showed up asking for money. I remember the I.V. Foot Patrol forcing them to go away.
I walk around I.V. today and it is déjà vu all over again. Children cannot go to the park, the new Community Center, or anywhere near downtown. That was wrong 20 years ago, and it is wrong now. Transient occupancy of our parks needs to end — permanently. All of us and especially children deserve the right to enjoy Isla Vista.