Laying the Groundwork for a New Beginning

Santa Ana resident Flor Perec and her son Erik walk by the now-vacant lot on East Fourth Street that will be a park thanks to a $3.5 million grant. (Photo by: David Washburn)

A group of Santa Ana residents gathered Friday for a small celebration in recognition of a $3.5 million grant that will help them transform a piece of vacant land in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods into a park.

But first came the bi-weekly board meeting and planning for what lay ahead.

“What hours will it be open?” members of the Resident Park Board were asked by Ana Carricchi, director of policy for Latino Health Access, the Santa Ana nonprofit that has spearheaded work on the park. “Will smoking be allowed?”

The answers to these and many other questions must be decided in coming months by the 15-member board, which gathers in the social room of a 1,700-unit condominium complex, next to the planned park near the intersection of East 4th and French streets.

Construction is scheduled to begin in January, and the park should be open by the summer, according to Gabriella Gonzalez, spokeswoman for Latino Health Access.

The design-build team already has its plans in place. The companies that volunteered their work include Tait & Associates, a Santa Ana civil engineering firm whose president, Tom Tait, is mayor-elect of Anaheim.

When completed, the park will include a recreation building, a half-court basketball court, an adolescent jungle gym, a children’s play area and trees and benches for those who just want to sit outdoors and watch nature.

“It’s just a half-acre, but we’re trying to make the most of it,” Gonzalez said.

Just as important as the open space, she and others said, is the plan for how it will be run.

And that was the point of Friday’s meeting. The agenda had two goals; set up a working system for the board for the future and outline some of the issues it will have to handle.

For two years, board members have been working with Latino Health Access, created in 1993 to assist with health needs of Latinos in Orange County. The nonprofit has arranged training for the board members, including attending classes on leadership and team building.

Among the issues are the classes that will be offered in the recreation building. Ideas include health education, parenting, English as a second language, job preparedness coursework and nutrition.

Another item high on the agenda is plans for how volunteers will be used. Those who take classes, for example, would be asked to give back in volunteer time — painting, cleaning, whatever needs to be done.

“We want the park to be maintained by the same people who will be using it,” said Carricchi.

The only thing missing from the meeting was a name for the park. Gonzalez said a “naming opportunity” is available for a substantial donation.

— TRACY WOOD

 

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