The reimagining of Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Community Center

December 5, 2022 /

On Wednesday, November 16, the Bakersfield City Council held a meeting to discuss their plans for renovating Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in southeast Bakersfield.

City councilmember Andrae Gonzales stated that many community members have voiced a need in Kern County to invest in local parks and recreation programs in an equitable manner and address some of the current needs in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“MLK Park is a priority and should be a priority and should be a priority for all of us in the city,” Gonzales commented.

The city council held a vote launching their plan for MLK Park renovations, and the plan passed with a 7-0 vote. The park will include an array of indoor and outdoor recreation options for community members, including the demolition of the current community center and the park’s swimming pool.

According to the city of Bakersfield: “Bakersfield Recreation & Parks, many upcoming changes will be implemented at Martin Luther King Jr. park and Community Center. The community can expect changes such as accessible community events, more cultural and historical artwork, and green space.”

The future of the park will invite and encourage nearby residents and the community to visit, create a vibrant social space, improve recreation amenities and facilities, protect trees and nature, revitalize the neighborhood, and inspire and incorporate play, healthy sports, activities, and fun.

Ucedreah Osby, the Executive Director of Community Interventions, stated that she was excited about the upcoming changes regarding reimagining the Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Community center. Osby also discussed the importance of adding a black monument outside the park. 

“It is the Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and there’s nothing that you see as you approach the park that says this is the name of the park, this is why it’s named that,” Osby stated. 

Osby reinforced the importance of black artwork and symbolism throughout the park about MLK Jr.’s contribution to the civil rights movement. She commented that there must be visual representation and remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

“As well as using all the space inside of the center to display educational content regarding MLK Jr. and the civil rights movement will be beautiful. There’s a lot of space for artwork and permanent displays that could be made into an art exhibit to go throughout the park sustained with city funding,” Osby said. 

The community can expect more green space, cultural space, and events. They should also expect to be excited to bring their families out and get outdoor exercising. One of the fascinating things about this renovation is that it caters to the lower-income people in this community and will have resources and sporting opportunities that will be free.

“It won’t be income-based; it won’t matter if a child is a straight-A student; everything regarding this renovation process will be looked at through an equity lens,” Osby stated.

Osby encourages the community to be involved in every step of the process. The community can attend the meetings, and when the changes are finished, the community must use these resources as much as possible.

City council meetings are broadcast and streamed live on the page. The next meeting regarding the park renovations will take place on December 6.