Bakersfield Recreation & Parks and Public Works departments awarded 1.5 million dollars for renovations

April 28, 2023 /

California Natural Resources Agency awarded the City of Bakersfield Recreation & Parks and Public Works departments 1.5 million dollars for a proposed project to renovate the city-owned green space on the corner of E. Belle Terrace and Citadel Street.

Enhancements to the 4.13-acre sump include adding walkable natural turf, an accessible soccer goalpost, and a multi-purpose field with more shade coverage. Sidewalks and seating areas will be updated to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Improvements will also support sustainable greenery and solar-powered lighting. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary shares a few property lines with the E. Belle Terrace future green space. The city is excited to provide a new experience for students as they walk to school and play outdoors. 

“It’s an area that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves,” stated Joe Conroy, a Public Information Officer for Bakersfield’s Parks and Rec. 

The area being revitalized will have a variety of drought-resistant shrubs and trees planted which will mitigate harmful effects of air pollution and help reduce temperatures during hot summers. 

Part of the sump will remain undeveloped for water run-off and collection. The added trees and shrubs will also help efforts to prevent flooding due to the excess rain and melting snow. 

The Urban Greening Grant Program in California chose only 23 projects to fund during this one-time funding cycle. According to Conroy, the process to be selected was very competitive. Elements that helped Bakersfield stand out were the consideration of making improvements to comply with ADA, and to ensure an environmentally sustainable community space. 

“It was very competitive. We were happy to not only get awarded a grant from this program but to have what we requested be fully funded,” said Conroy. 

Bakersfield Recreation and Parks Director Rick Anthony explained that it took many community stakeholders such as council members, residents, and city staff to come together to make park renovations possible. 

“Nothing happens without that council member signing off and advocating for it,” Anthony continued, “I’ve been very fortunate that both Councilmember Arias and Vice Mayor Gonzales have really championed our cause, and recognized the deficiencies we have in our system.” 

Anthony explained that Ward 1 Councilmember Eric Arias played an integral part in the planning of both the E. Belle Terrace green space and the Martin Luther King Jr. Park renovations. Due to redistricting, the E. Belle Terrace project currently falls in Ward 2 which is Vice Mayor Gonzales’ district. 

“If I had to estimate, I would say Belle Terrace [Park] is probably priority number one. And mainly because of the fact the city owns the sump that’s almost by the park spaces, and the fact that we have the grant to improve the sump,” stated Anthony.

What helps guide the city’s priorities regarding Parks and Rec is the feedback provided through the Bakersfield City App, joining or participating in city committees like the Project Advisory Committee or MLK Park Reimagining, and attending pop-up events.

“When you look at the map, it’s almost like they’re islands within the city annex,” Anthony said in reference to the Belle Terrace, Heritage, and Casa Loma Parks that are owned by the county. 

Anthony further stated that working with the county has been fruitful and has gotten better over the years. 

It’s been about two years since the start of the city’s master plan, which should be completed months to a year from now Anthony reported. It was the product of community engagement through different types of needs assessments and is a detailed plan encapsulating the three county-owned parks, plus ways to continue to use data from residents to prioritize other opportunities for Bakersfield to fund future projects.

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