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Born and raised in Santa Maria, 12-year-old Maritza Nava lives near Buena Vista Park, but seldom visited it because it looked barren and uninviting.

All that changed Saturday morning for Maritza and her family, as they marveled at how different it looked after undergoing $1.5 million in renovations over the last two years.

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Josue Ivanez, 13, goes down a slide during the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks grand reopening and rededication celebration of Buena Vista Park on Saturday.

"The park looks so different. It's so much bigger, it's prettier and it's just better all around," said Maritza, who attended the grand reopening and rededication with her father, Martin, and her little brother, Emmanuel.

"I used to come here a few times by myself or to meet up with friends, she said, but there really wasn't much to do. There was no playground equipment, things like that. Kids would hardly ever come around here."

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Councilwoman Etta Waterfield, city officials, members of the Recreation and Parks Commission, Buena Vista Beautifiers and Minerva Club kicked off the ceremony at 800 S. Pine St. 

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A woman looks at a plaque commemorating the work of the Minerva Club during the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks rededication and grand reopening celebration of Buena Vista Park on Saturday.

Just before cutting the red ribbon with a giant pair of scissors and letting children run to the playground, play tetherball and basketball, they extended their gratitude to everyone who made a vision a reality.

"Today is such an awesome day because we get to rededicate a park that's been historically around for many decades," Waterfield said. "Back in 1985, my husband brought me here from Sedona, Arizona, to look at Santa Maria to see if there's a possible chance to move here.

"When we first moved here later that summer, we lived in the park apartments across the street, because in my opinion, it was one of the prettiest parks in Santa Maria," she continued. "I'm honored to be here to be able to rededicate this park and celebrate all the hard work that went into it."

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City Councilman Mike Cordero, left, listens as Ken Wolf, a Buena Vista Beautifiers member, speaks to the crowd gathered during the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks grand reopening and rededication celebration of Buena Vista Park on Saturday.

Waterfield added, "We had a lot of meetings, trials and errors in what we wanted the park to look like but we all got together and focused on one thing: what's best for the city of Santa Maria, and how do we make a great park even greater?" 

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The councilwoman also thanked the many focus groups, including the Buena Vista Beautifiers and Minerva Club, neighboring residents and students, who were involved with the project that began in July 2016. 

"Buena Vista Beautifiers got started when we had a vision for Santa Maria's oldest park to be more community-friendly," said member Kenneth Wolf. "We met regularly at the Camp Fire Cabin along with other local businesses, nonprofits, school representatives, the Santa Maria Police and Rec and Parks. They moved this worthwhile endeavor forward.

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Sergio Silva, 5, of Santa Maria, jumps from the steps of new playground equipment during the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks grand reopening and rededication celebration of Buena Vista Park on Saturday.

"Today, we're making that vision a reality," he added. "Enjoy your park with your family and friends in good health and a long life."

Maritza Nava said that she was "definitely going to come here all the time now with my friends, bring my little brother here, too, as he grows up. I think something like this is so important to have here in Santa Maria so kids can come play outside."

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210

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Courts/Public Safety Reporter