BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — On Wednesday, November 16, the Bakersfield City Council held a meeting to discuss their plans for renovating Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in southeast Bakersfield. It is in an underserved area, and many community members say they have concerns about safety and poor conditions, among other things.
Cindy Mendoza, Director of Park and Recreation Planning for the City of Bakersfield, says some of the renovation goals for the park includes incorporating the community’s history and culture. One way of doing that is to address the key current and future needs for the park, such as demolishing the current community center and building a new one.
“We could see that the council had indicated that those interactive opportunities are super important in guiding the redevelopment of this site,” said Mendoza. “It is a park that is struggling currently, and so we are looking at bringing outdoor amenities as well as a new community center to the park to be able to serve not only nearby neighbors in a more effective way, but also be able to attract others by new opportunities that reflect the city’s identity.”
The city council held a vote on launching their master plan for MLK Park renovations, and the plan passed with by 7-0 vote. Bakersfield Director of Recreation and Parks Rick Anthony says they’re looking forward to the execution of the plan.
“It was voted unanimously,” said Anthony. “I think we have our preferred concept now, and we’re excited about getting down and rolling up our sleeves and really getting to work now.”
Anthony says the renovated park will help create safe and vibrant social spaces within the community, with a balance of indoor and outdoor recreation options.
Mendoza also adds that part of the planning will focus on making sure that park amenities, in addition to enhancing cultural and recreational opportunities for community members, all meet the current building codes as set by the city’s building architect are met.
From a long term perspective, Mendoza says this will include demolishing and rebuilding not only the current community center building, but also the park’s swimming pool.
Anthony says the city’s master plan for renovating MLK Park is a step in the right direction towards finding a way to sustain future parks for new development.
According to Mendoza, community input on the park’s purpose and needs came from city outreach activities, including a survey of about 2,300 residents, and in person events intended to spark community discussion and ensure that the residents’ voices are heard and understood.
One of the community’s top concerns is safety in the parks, and Anthony says the council is already addressing that.
“Our ranger program is on board,” said Anthony, referring to the City of Bakersfield’s Park Ranger Program. “We’re doing some light patrols and a lot of training, but we hope in January we’re going to have a ‘go day’ where we are going to go live and full enforcement.”
Anthony adds that the city council’s vote to launch their master plan for renovating the park is especially close to his heart.
“It’s both personal for me, and professionally, I actually grew up being a part of that community and that park,” said Anthony. “To come back home to see it in the state that it’s in was a little disheartening, but Im very fortunate that the city is supportive of this effort. Everybody wants to see us do something significant.”
If you would like to learn more about the city’s master plan for park renovation or offer your own input on the city’s needs, you can connect with the City of Bakersfield’s Recreation and Parks Department through their website.