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Parks and Rec facilitates community meeting to address issues at Ortega Park

Santa Barbara’s Parks and Recreation Department held a community meeting Thursday evening to discuss the future of Ortega Park.

The Eastside park has a history of vagrancy and criminal activity and community leaders want your input to address some of those issues.

Making the park safe for everyone was top of mind at the meeting, with parking, safety and addressing the transient issue the top three big picture items.

Young or old, parks are supposed to benefit everyone in the community.

“To have everyone be at this awesome field, it really means a lot to us,” said a member of the Santa Barbara All Stars Baseball Team.

“I’ve never heard of pickle ball but I like that it had features that seemed like it would attract seniors,” said a woman in attendance.

Known as a vagrancy hot spot, Ortega Park is in desperate need of a little TLC.

“The last significant improvements were way back in the 1930’s and so the park doesn’t function for today and if you look at the density in this neighborhood and how it’s growing and we’re adjacent to a junior high school, we really want to make sure we have something here that the community can use now and then going forward, not using things that were designed 50-60 years ago,” said Rich Hanna, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director.

In order to make that happen, Parks and Rec is asking the community to prioritize a master plan of park improvements.

“I really like the skate park because it is older teens, junior high,” said Primitiva Hernandez, with the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara.

For Primitiva Hernandez, making improvements to the athletic fields ranks high on the list.

“I have two boys and they play in four different divisions so that’s where I spend my weekends. On Saturday’s and Sunday they usually have two games each,” said Hernandez.

Parents like Hernandez are also raising concerns about safety in the park.

“Making this little area here a substation, I feel that having a consistent police presence during the day when there’s going to be families and children present, I feel like that is really important,” said Hernandez.

With new features and parking solutions in the works, Parks and Rec officials hope they can get the park shovel ready when funding is available and turn Ortega Park’s reputation around.

“This park can be associated at times with mis-behaviors and so forth so ways to activate the park, features like including basketball a lot of the stakeholders want to continue to make sure there’s public art that represents the Eastside,” said Hanna

Another community workshop with be held on August 22nd with hopes to bring a plan to City Council in December.

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