Community members called for more benches, public art and other amenities during a community meeting Thursday to gather public input on a proposed renovation of Santa Maria’s Veterans Memorial Park.
Held at the Veterans Memorial Center, the meeting was in advance of a planned application for a Proposition 68 grant, which provides money to create parks and recreation opportunities in underserved areas.
The Recreation and Parks Commission signed off on the application during its Tuesday meeting, and city staff plans to request up to several million dollars for the proposed renovation.
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Recreation Supervisor Cindy Hoskins said city staff were still developing the final application and, based on community input, it would likely include plans for a new playground, irrigation, benches, enhanced lighting, security cameras, walking trails and public art to honor the region’s war veterans.
The full grant application will be submitted in the next several weeks, and city staff expects the 2.5-acre Veterans Memorial Park to be a strong candidate based on the state’s prioritized criteria.
Under this year’s grant application guide, an area is considered underserved if the park acreage is less than 3 per 1,000 residents living in proximity of the project site and median household income is less than $51,000.
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According to Community FactFinder, a tool developed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, there is 1.18 acres of park space per 1,000 residents within a half-mile radius of Veterans Memorial Park.
The median household income of the area sits at just under $41,000.
Hoskins said the city had also planned to seek Prop. 68 funding for the proposed Enos Ranch Park and Multicultural Center but has determined the area wouldn’t qualify for the grant based on its park acreage and income.
On Thursday, several people spoke during the hour-long meeting to share their thoughts about what design elements were most important to them in the proposed project.
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Steve Baird, president of local veterans organization Band of Brothers, said he believed it was important to have a mural or monument to honor veterans, and that could be appreciated by youth in the community.
“A lot of times youth don’t learn about military veterans until they’re well on in life,” Baird said. “If we’re going to have a play structure there, why not something that youth could take tangible note of.”
Mayor Alice Patino suggested adding vignettes that honored the different military companies connected to Santa Maria veterans that served in wars.
Joseph Skoda, a former commander of American Legion Post 56, said lighting and security cameras would be important to ensure nothing is vandalized.
“We don’t want things being destroyed,” he said.
Hoskins said the city expects to hear back about its grant application around November.