Ribbon cutting ceremony to be held November 5
By Brent E. Beltrán
It took almost three years to complete but Chicano Park finally received the recreational improvements that I wrote were coming back in January of 2014. New improvements to this local treasure and nationally registered historic site include a skate lane, exercise stations, an added handball court, new children’s playgrounds, a drought friendly water fountain, and other editions.
On Thursday, November 5 at 3pm there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony featuring local dignitaries such as Councilman David Alvarez, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, Urban Corps of San Diego CEO Robert Chavez, Tommie Camarillo from the Chicano Park Steering Committee as well as many others who were instrumental in making Chicano Park what it is and the improvements possible.
In an email Councilman Alvarez stated that “Chicano Park exemplifies the broad cultural, political, economic and social history of the community and I am proud to have this region-wide treasure in my Council District. The collaborative effort involved to make these recreational park improvements happen is to be commended. I would especially like to thank the California Department of Housing and Community Development for this grant and for the Chicano Park Steering Committee for their years of dedication and service to the community.”
The City of San Diego received a $1.08 million grant through the California Department of Housing and Community Development and Proposition 1C through the House and Emergency Trust Fund Act of 2006 to make recreational improvements to the park.
Urban Corps of San Diego was written into the grant and was chosen to lead the effort and construct the improvements after a series of workshops were conducted to provide community input. After prioritizing community input Urban Corps moved forward to improve the park.
To help leverage Prop 1C funds Urban Corps brought in an additional $112,000 in grant funding to the project including $60,000 from Shea Properties, $42,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and $10,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation.
As a show of support for the community and the project a number of vendors also offered discounted rates or in-kind materials including South Bay Fence, BJs Rentals, PW Unlimited, and Greenfields Outdoor Fitness Equipment.
“Spanning three years from start to finish, it’s been a tremendous experience for Urban Corps to participate on the Chicano Park project,” said Robert Chavez, CEO for the Urban Corps. “This has been a landmark project for us and we are honored to have helped provide this deserving neighborhood with much-anticipated recreational improvements for local residents and all visitors to enjoy.”
A big part of Urban Corps’ mission is to help at-risk youth. The Chicano Park Recreation Improvement Project was a great example of that. Corpsmembers Alfredo Silva and Elizabeth Ayala are two youths that gained skills and training while working on the project.
“It makes me feel like I actually did something because I built something new for the park,” said Silva, who grew up in the Logan Heights area and played handball frequently in Chicano Park. “When I was coming as a kid none of this was here. Now I can tell my kid that I built that. I feel like I actually achieved something.”
Ayala, who recently moved back to Logan after living here as a child, said “it feels good being a part of a good project. Being a part of the culture of Chicano Park. It’s nice to be a part of it.”
The Chicano Park Steering Committee, the stewards of the park, have been heavily involved in the project. Nothing gets done without their approval.
“We worked with Urban Corps and the city planners since the beginning of this project and everything is beautiful. I’m really pleased,” said Tommie Camarillo, Chairperson of the CPSC.
But things are never easy in Barrio Logan or Chicano Park.
“It wasn’t easy,” says Camarillo. “You know the history of the park. For so many years everything we’ve had to fight for. The ones that we’ve had the most problems with is always the City’s Parks and Rec. Urban Corps were great. They worked with us.”
She continued: “The problem we always have (with Parks & Rec) is that they don’t like this, they don’t like that. ‘Why do you have that?’ Because this is what people asked for and this is what we want. So, what do you care?”
The Chicano Park Steering Committee is in a never ending battle to maintain the cultural character and integrity of Chicano Park. Chicano Park is more than a park. It’s a cultural institution. It’s the epicenter of Chicano life in San Diego. And finally, through the hard work of Urban Corps and the Chicano Park Steering Committee, it is getting the improvements it deserves.