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A community effort to create a public park in Ventura's Westside neighborhood has moved one big step closer to reality with help from a $1 million state grant.
The city will use the grant, awarded June 16 by the state Strategic Growth Council, to develop Kellogg Park, a 2.4-acre vacant lot at Kellogg Street and Ventura Avenue. The money will pay for planting trees and vegetation in the park and for landscaping features that filter stormwater runoff.
It's a huge boost to the campaign to establish the park, which has been led by Westside community groups with the help of the city and nonprofit conservancy The Trust for Public Land.
Elena Brokaw, director of Ventura Parks, Recreation and Community Partnerships, called the grant a "catalytic gift for a catalytic project" and said it would pay for at least 20 percent of the park's construction. She anticipated the total cost would be $2.4 million to $4.8 million.
"This is what takes the project from being something that will happen eventually to something that is going to happen very soon," Brokaw said. "While the kids who are supporting it right now are still kids, that park is going to be open, and that's amazing. It is hugely meaningful."
She projected the city would break ground on Kellogg Park in 2015.
More money is needed before work can begin, however. The Trust for Public Land has been applying for grants on the city's behalf, including the one just awarded. The city parks department and the community also plan to hold fundraisers and seek financial support from businesses, Brokaw said.
The city bought the land for the park last year for $1.1 million, an amount offset slightly by a $150,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente. The trust also helped purchase the park, but the city has since repaid that, Brokaw said.
The park is important to the Westside because the neighborhood lacks green space and recreational opportunities, contributing to high levels of childhood obesity, said Miguel Rodriguez of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy. The community group began campaigning for the park in 2010, and hundreds of residents have rallied in support of it, he said.
"This proves when a community comes together for a project that is important to everybody that even though there are limitations, things happen," Rodriguez said. "I'm very grateful for the leadership of the Trust for Public Land who saw a need in our community and who came and said: We're going to do this."
Jackie Pearce, a longtime Westside resident and key advocate for the park, said she was thrilled to hear about the grant. She said the community hopes it will become a space where children can play and residents can socialize and get closer to nature. Although the Westside is bordered by a river and hills and is near the beach, residents have no easy access to them, she said.
The site has a walking path and a fence but little else. The grant is encouraging news for the community, she said.
"This is still going to be our park. It just takes time," Pearce said. "Money is a huge component, so getting this grant is very exciting."