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By Chris Frost
Oxnard— The City of Oxnard enlisted the help of its residents, Jan. 9 and 10 and sought out feedback about how the city’s parks should move forward in the future.
The event took place over two days at the South Oxnard Community Center and the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center, as residents enjoyed snacks and gave the Parks Commission valuable comments.
After registration, attendees visited a series of tables and provided a different perspective about what a beautiful park would look like and offered feedback, picked and drew pictures of what would inspire them, completed activities and filled out a survey to ask in greater detail about amenities that would make a great park.
City of Oxnard Grant Specialist Eric Humel led the event said it doesn’t have a parks and recreation master plan and it was a good time to get one finished.
“This is our first round of workshops, and we are going to be doing another round in March to clarify some of the ideas that are brought about today,” he said. “There has been a lot of need in terms of sports fields in the city and some people are interested in getting an aquatic center in the city. Ormond Beach is an import piece of Oxnard’s recreation system, so that’s been a big topic and also community gardens has been a big one.”
Design Workshop Project Manager Rebecca Hill asked people to place a pin where they lived on a map and another pin at the park they visit the most, which creates a data set of the most popular locations and how far they would travel to get there.
“At the end of the night, we’ll be able to compare last night (Jan. 9) to tonight (Jan. 10), and at the end of the night, if no one goes to Seaview or Durley Park, and everybody goes to two or three parks. That gives us an indication to which parks are the most popular so we can discern why, and which parks are not popular,” she said.
Possible reasons, she said, could be due to broken equipment, like a swing, or the park itself is not exciting.
“It gives us a report card on how popular and effective the parks are,” she said. “If we see some parks have zero or few people going to it then we’ll analyze why and maybe because there is a large homeless population. We’re not doing a survey of homeless in the park. We’re looking at what’s not working and how to make them better.”
Parks and Recreation Community Service Commission Vice Chairwoman Angela Whitecomb had a table with a big piece of paper, and she was asking people what would get them to visit a park in Oxnard.
“We’re engaging the people in the community and trying to find out what people of Oxnard want out of their parks, what their desires are, what their needs are, how to build and pay for more parks and where their priorities lie,” she said.
The feedback they are looking for is amenities like having an aquatic center, more soccer fields, or community gardens, she said, a barometer on what they want.
“What the citizens are willing to do to achieve these goals,” she said.
The input Whitecomb receives will be used for future planning, and the city will build its priorities based on what everyone’s needs are.
“We want to know, not assume,” she said. “We want all the feedback, the good, bad and the ugly. “
If they find out the public feels a park is less than safe, the goal is to improve the venue.
“We need to allocate more money to comb through and make sure there are no drug needles or if we need more police presence or services so we can help our population that is in need,” she said. “That way our other populations that use the park feel safe and open for everyone and not just one population.”
She said the information would be compiled into the parks master plan and more workshops are scheduled.
“They’re going to work with different community groups, and once they have all this information, they’re going to come back with a report to the city, and it will be used for the future. It’s not to build a park, but it’s what we need to do for an existing park and if we build a park, what’s appropriate and how can we make that happen.”
Ashlee Wells, urban designer and project assistant for the parks and recreation master plan said the feedback they receive would guide the city’s park spaces for the next 20 years.
“We are trying to be inclusive of what the community wants, and their desires and these meetings are trying to attract as many residents as possible to get their opinions about what they think about the parks and what they want in the parks,” she said.
The exercise at that table assigned people five tokens and each participant placed them in a bucket that had a particular amenity, like another dog park, to gauge interest.
“Just like in real life, Oxnard doesn’t have unlimited resources,” she said. “Given a selected amount of money, what would you pay for?”
Wells said the answers would be different for everyone and the team wants to understand statistically what the priority needs are if they can only choose a few items.
“When we make our financial strategy, we’re going to make recommendations about what programs are the most vital for the community and what we need the most in their opinions,” she said. “I think tennis has the least amount right now,”
Jack Salgado said he and his daughter are the most interested in soccer fields with lights.
“A lot of the parks, they have soccer fields but no lights, so after 5 or 6 p.m. when the time changes it gets dark, and you have to go back inside,” he said. “I wanted to show my support and give my voice.”
His daughter Jackie echoed the same sentiments and built on that idea.
“I want pet parks,” she said. “Snowball, my dog, needs to meet other dogs.”
From there, residents offered a one-word opinion about different park landscape pictures.
“It’s been fun to see how the younger kids are participating and getting to say what they want in the parks, Recreation Coordinator Julie Estrada said. “They’re one of the bigger populations that utilize sports parks.”
Volunteer Talia Isaacson hosted a kids’ activity which allowed children to draw a favorite park activity.
“Kids can draw themselves playing soccer or taking their dog for a walk, and we had some kids draw treehouse ideas they thought would be nice additions to park spaces,” she said.
Claudia Garibay from the Oxnard Recreation Department said the kids drew pictures of the community pool at Garibay Park.