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Santa Maria’s Buena Vista Park will be reopened and rededicated Saturday after undergoing more than $1 million in renovations.

After a two-year-long refurbishment period, which began in July 2016, the park will feature expanded open spaces, new playground equipment, reconfigured basketball courts, renovated bathrooms, public art displays and defined areas for events and gatherings.

It is the first major work performed at the park in 24 years.

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Councilwoman Etta Waterfield, members of the Recreation and Parks Commission and other city officials, will be present for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will be followed by a family-friendly festival and resource fair from noon to 2 p.m. There will be free food and refreshments.

The renovations cover almost every part of the 4.17-acre park, said Dennis Smitherman, a management analyst with the Recreation and Parks Department.

“We pretty much went down to bare bones,” he said. “Just about everything has been touched in some way, shape or form.”

The work cost approximately $1.5 million, which was covered partly with grants and partly by the city. Grants covered around 40 percent of the total cost and the city picked up the tab on the remaining 60 percent.

Changes to the park are immediately visible from the main entrance decorated with 12 tiles designed by local artist Jill Iversen. Iversen painted a dozen watercolor paintings to illustrate the history of the park, which was first dedicated in 1906. Those watercolors were then printed on to the tiles and inset into a rock wall.

Other artwork to be incorporated into the park in the next week or two includes two bronze statues, Smitherman said.

One of the statues is of a child kicking a soccer ball, the other is of a child walking a dog.

“They’re pretty substantial,” he said. “They’ll be between 250 and 400 pounds and around 5 feet tall. It’ll be pretty hard to walk away with those.”

Another change parkgoers will notice is the expanded open space. Before the new landscaping, the grassy area was broken up with trees, Smitherman said. The new landscaping calls for trees to be close to the perimeter of the park, leaving it wide open for football and soccer games.

Buena Vista Park — located in one of the highest density parts of the city — has long been one of the most utilized city green spaces, he said.

“This really is the community’s backyard.”

The basketball area has been redesigned with the goal of allowing more people to play at once. What used to a be a traditional full-court has been reconfigured into three half-courts, each with a single hoop. A tetherball set was installed on the opposite side of each hoop.

The new layout of half-court basketball hoops allows smaller groups of people to play without taking up a whole court, Smitherman said. “It allows more people to play."

To make the park environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient LED lights are used for security lighting and the park incorporates a bioswale — a type of biofilter for surface water runoff — into its layout.

“This idea here is to take the runoff, filter it through the plant, dirt and rocks before it goes into the groundwater system,” Smitherman said. “The goal is to remove any dust and toxins before it seeps down into the system. It’s a new addition and I don’t believe we have any of these at any of our other parks.”

The plan to renovate the park did have its detractors, however. The main point of contention was the plan to cut down several tall eucalyptus trees, which some community members argued should be preserved, if possible.

“A lot of those trees were rotten,” Smitherman said. “They were lined up on the side [of the park] and they had gotten to the point where the limbs started to fall — 200- or 300-pound limbs. We had one car incident — no one was in the car, thank goodness. But it did demolish the car.

“It’s really hard to please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time, but we tried our best to take input from everybody,” he said. “And we think we got really close to a home run. It’s a beautiful park.”

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed


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