The Isla Vista Recreation & Park District entered the early design phases of the Children’s Park Renovation Project in late 2022, inviting community members to participate in a series of community workshops where they can vote on their preferences for the park’s future. 

Isla Vista Park & Recreation District plans to renovate Children’s Park after receiving a $4.2 million state grant for the project. Daily Nexus File Photo

The Isla Vista Recreation & Park District (IVRPD) partnered with Pacific Coast Land Design (PCLD) in early 2021 after receiving a $4.2 million grant from the California State Park’s “Parks for All” program, which launched the Children’s Park Renovation Project.

A workshop, held on Jan. 25, invited community members to vote on potential amenities to be added to the park during the renovation, including environmentally sustainable play structures, ideas for an interactive demonstration garden and giving the park a distinguishable identity apart from other parks in I.V. 

The results of the community voting session were discussed during the district’s Feb. 9 board meeting. With over 50 voters in attendance at the community workshop, the three most popular choices were wood-based climbing structures for the new playground design, an interactive demonstration garden and a renovated recreation building, according to PCLD Associate Breanne Alton.

Alton said that the new elements of the redesign hoped to introduce “nature-based play” into the park to encourage children to have a connection with nature during the Jan. 25 workshop. A proposal for the redesigned playground would include a more natural look with tree-like features or wooden structures. 

“[The playground] will be a new structure, focusing on nature-based play,” she said during the workshop. “So, really, kids being able to have the connection to nature and getting their hands in the dirt and have that immersive experience.” 

Wood was chosen as an environmentally safe and durable material for the playground structure to further reinforce the back-to-nature park identity for the redesign.

“[This] is this really beautiful, natural wood that gives us this ‘larger than life’ nature experience that the kids around Isla Vista don’t necessarily get,” Alton said at the Feb. 9 board meeting. 

Another goal of the renovation is to include an interactive demonstration garden that could help teach park visitors about their natural environment. Some proposed uses of the garden include a community food garden and a butterfly sanctuary for monarch butterflies to rest during their migration.

Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects, the company assisting with the construction of the project, Principal Tyson Cline spoke about incorporating thoughtful designs throughout the park to create an engaging experience for the park’s visitors and to start conversations about the environment through educational and storytelling elements.

“The idea is, how can we include storytelling into the park? How can we include an educational story into the park?” Cline said at the Jan. 25 workshop. “Not only for children but also for adults to come out and engage in that conversation.”

“[The garden] sparks curiosity as you’re moving through the park so that perhaps, especially as seasonal changes are happening, you kind of notice different, little intricacies throughout the park,” PCLD Associate Emily Barlog said.

The third major design proposal included renovating the recreation building within the park to serve as a space for community members to hold pop-up events, birthday parties or family gatherings. There would also be opportunities for Children’s Park programming such as after-school recreation events or uses for a community kitchen.

“[The recreation building] could be a great space for people to gather and play music together, just hang out, read or programming for theatrical performances or the after-school program — things like that,” Barlog said at the Jan. 25 workshop.

Additional features of the renovation include increased lighting and accessible pathways throughout the park, as well as implementing spaces for electricity and WiFi capabilities.

The next community design workshop for the renovation project is scheduled to take place on March 20 at the St. George Youth Center in I.V. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the Feb. 23, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.