Crews and machinery got to work removing grass and pushing dirt at Buena Vista Park on Wednesday, starting construction that will completely change the look of Santa Maria’s oldest park.

Buena Vista Park was purchased for $300 in 1903; the work that ramped up this week is projected to cost about $1 million.

“It should go pretty quickly. It is about a four- to six-month project,” said Jim Davis, Santa Maria Recreation and Park Department park services manager.

The plan includes a new playground area, bathrooms, trees, planters, art, play and gathering areas.

The city of Santa Maria first started thinking about rejuvenating the park in 2013. That year, Recreation and Parks Department leaders heard some complaints about the state of the children’s playground there.

Work on the park began in March when park officials erected a fence around the park, located next to Santa Maria High School and behind the Historic Santa Maria Inn.

To cut down on costs, the city crews remodeled Buena Vista Park’s bathroom facility before handing the job over to the city's chosen contractor.

Work has continued slowly but steadily.

In July, the Santa Maria City Council awarded the bid for the renovation work to Newton Construction.

The work that started Wednesday was scheduled to begin in September, Davis said.

“What the holdup has been to this point is they didn’t get the permit from the state water board for the grading and stormwater plan until Friday. They were not allowed to move forward until this was complete,” Davis said.

When work is done, the park will have a new playground, a different contour and a special art installation.

As part of the new park design the Recreation and Parks Department is working with artist Jill Iversen to create a visual representation of the park’s story. Iversen will create ceramic tiles that will depict Buena Vista Park’s history and role in the growth of the city of Santa Maria.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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