Vera Cruz Park in Santa Barbara takes a new direction with fencing | Local News
Three years ago, at Plaza Vera Cruz in Santa Barbara, a 4-year-old boy was pricked by a discarded hypodermic needle he found on the park’s play structure.
The child had to undergo a series of drug treatments to prevent HIV and hepatitis, and the incident sparked local outrage, earning the park the nickname “needle park”.
Today, Plaza Vera Cruz, 130 E. Cota St., is home to Santa Barbara trapeze, and is fenced, end to end, resembling a steel cage surrounding a professional wrestling ring.
The only way to get in or out is through the door or the top.
The playground equipment was gone, as were the homeless people who hung out in the park during the day.
In their place is the Santa Barbara Trapeze Company, once housed at Earl Warren Showgrounds, and now downtown.
“The fence is there to keep people out at night,” said Randy Kohn, one of the owners of the Trapeze company. “The people who approach the fence, we invite them into the park. We have sofas to sit on. There is a lot of space. “
Kohn added, “We had a lot of members above all thanking us for the impact we have had on the neighborhood. “
While it is not common for a public park funded by taxpayer dollars to be used exclusively by a private company, Jill Zachary, director of parks and recreation, cited the Santa Barbara Golf Club as another example where it there is no free public use.
“We had huge positive support for the trapeze in Plaza Vera Cruz,” Zachary said. “This is one of many city parks that we have made available for licensed outdoor recreation to support healthy lifestyles during the pandemic.”
She said there was a need to fence off the park because Santa Barbara Trapeze needs to protect their gear.
The city and Santa Barbara Trapeze have entered into a 6-month agreement to host the trapeze in Plaza Vera Cruz to provide “a unique recreational opportunity” for children and adults, Zachary said.
The company pays the city 10% of its gross monthly income and also participates in the maintenance of the park. The lease expires at the end of 2021, and at that time the city, through community conversations, will decide on the next step for the park.
“Since this new activity is also a safe way to recreate during the coronavirus pandemic, it is very popular and has revitalized the park,” Zachary said.
She said the type of business provides the possibility for public viewers
“Residents and adjacent businesses are very satisfied with the change in use and the improved conditions of the park,”
City Councilor Alejandra Gutierrez, whose neighborhood includes Plaza Vera Cruz, said she appreciated the city’s efforts to improve the park, but would like to see more access for all.
“Vera Cruz Park is a park that I would love to see reopen,” said Gutierrez. “The city has done a good job in making this park safe and creating a better environment for families and community members. I would like to see a cleaner and safer environment for the community.
Kohn, from New York, said anyone who wants to enter the park is welcome. The company, he said, made the block more attractive.
Over the summer, he says, 40 children participated in trapeze activities. His company offered scholarships to those who could not afford the camp.
“We try to be as welcoming as possible,” he said.
The first few weeks, Kohn said, a lot of people walked over to the fence to watch.
“We are very grateful to have this park to use,” Kohn said.