UCSB student Eric Cummings will get his chance to help decide the fate of local parks and programs as the newest director to the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD).
Cummings, a fourth-year English major, assumed his position Aug. 25, following a short application process with the park district earlier that month. Isla Vista Recreation and Park District director Bryan Brown said Cummings beat out a local resident for the position, which opened up after former director Alisha Dahlstrom resigned to study abroad.
As one of three UCSB students on the board, Cummings said he has already faced some difficult decisions in his first month. He said he is most excited about the new Community Advisory program – an upcoming project in which a panel of local residents will meet to discuss issues related to the IVRPD and make official recommendations to the board based on their discussions.
Cummings said he gained experience with the IVRPD in the last year, while working on a local campaign to convince the County Board of Supervisors to buy Capp’s Park – an open parcel of land formerly known as “Claire’s Park,” located on the 6700 block of Del Playa Drive.
“I was very involved in saving Claire’s Park and that got me started in saving I.V.’s parks,” Cummings said. “That sparked my interest in I.V.’s parks in general.”
Cumming’s appointment to the board extends the majority standing of UCSB students on the IVRPD – now composed of three students and two I.V. residents – for another year. IVRPD director Logan Green, a business economics major, said he thinks the current ratio of students to residents is representative of the park district’s constituency.
“I think it’s appropriate that in I.V. – because we have at least 60 percent students – that we have student representation on the board of the park district,” Green said.
General Manager of the IVRPD Derek Johnson said he thinks some community members, however, would like to see more of a non-student representation on the board.
“I think a lot of people would like to see a board that reflects the community,” Johnson said.
Cummings, who also co-chairs the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board (EAB), said he thinks it is important for EAB to continue its tradition of having representation on the IVRPD’s Board of Directors.
“EAB always had a strong presence on the park board and it’s about continuing that tradition,” Cummings said. “Our parks are our environment.”
Brown said the decision between Cummings and the other applicant – an Isla Vista resident named Sandra Reese – was difficult for the board.
“We talked about it for close to two and a half hours,” Brown said. “They both were great candidates.”
IVRPD Director Diane Conn said she voted for Reese and was disappointed with the outcome of the selection process.
“I supported Sandra Reese because she is a really reasonable, caring person from the West End [of Isla Vista],” Conn said. “I think it would be a good thing to bring someone like that on. I was disappointed. I thought Sandra would be good at this.”
Johnson said he is confident that Cummings will be able to fulfill the duties of his position.
“I’ve met with him and he’s willing to do the work needed to become a well-educated and informed director,” Johnson said.
Cummings said he is still getting settled in to his new position, but said his prior experiences with the park district have helped him get along with the other directors.
“It’s a learning process,” Cummings said. “I’ve worked with all the people [on the board] in one capacity or another which is part of the reason I feel I’m a really good fit for it.”