City Lags on Much Needed Park Improvements

Dec. 21, 2012 / By

By CSULB Senior Seminar Reporters Sandy Brambila, Katrina Guevara, Chie Uraki and Eric Bryan.

Central Long Beach has the lowest number of park space for the highest percentage of families in unemployment and with children in poverty as compared to the other parts of the city, according to Best Start L.A.

There are 106,988 residents in Central Long Beach out of 465,576 total in the city. There are 13,362 children ages 0-5 years old or at least 1 out of every 8 adults in the area, which is relatively higher than other parts of the city, as read on Best Start.

The three main parks in Central Long Beach are Drake Park, MacArthur Park on East Anaheim Street and Martin Luther King Junior Park on Lemon Street.

Mendiola said that the two new soccer fields will be installed at The Drake and Chavez Green Belt sections by 2014.

The state of California recently awarded the city of Long Beach $2.5 million for the first designated historic district’s Drake Park and Chavez Green Belt expansion project, according to Park Development Officer Anna Mendiola.

“We have a total budget of $2.5 million and 22.98 acres to work with in the first phase for The Drake and Chavez Green Belt area,” said Mendiola.

“We are just starting the designing process and environmental clearance for the soccer field,” she added.

According to Lena Gonzalez, Long Beach First District field deputy, the city will make many enhancements, which include: the community gardens, walkways, community plaza, two soccer fields, a downtown trail link and boardwalk, among other new additions.

“The project is set to break ground in 2015 and will be a major improvement to the West Gateway area,” said Gonzalez.

Drake Park, initially named Knoll Park, will be expanded for only the second time since it opened its fields in 1904.

In addition, both Long Beach parks Drake Park and Armory Park submission beat 400 applicants in California, according to the Long Beach City website.​

Drake Park has not been renovated for more than three decades, but it has received $150,000 from Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe and $50,000 from the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, according to the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency website.

However, Mendiola said the planning started more than 10 years ago.

“But we did start a master plan in 2000 and slowly acquired the acreage we have now,” said Mendiola.

The park, part of the Drake Park and Willmore City neighborhood, has survived to provide the community a soccer field, community center, skate park and playground.

Drake Park was first expanded in 1972 from 1.8 acres to its current 6.6-acre size, according to Mendiola.

“There have been some improvements at Drake Park, but no expansion for a while due to budget constraints.”

According to Trust for Public Land in 2009, Long Beach is ranked No. 3 for its amount of community garden plots per capita.

Compared to East Long Beach’s 815-acre El Dorado Park and West Long Beach’s 13-acre Cesar E. Chavez Park, Drake Park is significantly smaller.

According to the Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine website, “The department strives to obtain open space to serve the needs of a growing population.”

For more information on Drake Park, contact Drake Park Parks and Recreation at (562) 570-3165.

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CSULB Enterprise Reporters

VoiceWaves partners with the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) each semester to mentor students' community reporting. The Journalism 495 Enterprise Reporting in Diverse Communities course challenges students to build on their journalism skills covering various neighborhoods throughout Long Beach, including North Long Beach, Central Long Beach, Downtown, and the Westside.