Robert Bijl and dog Peanut
Robert Bijl of Santa Barbara, with Peanut, his Cavalier King Charles spaniel, prepares to add some jump rope to his Cabrillo Ball Field workout. (Dennis Moran / Noozhawk photo)
Dennis Moran

[Noozhawk’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles on the myriad of recreational activities along the Santa Barbara waterfront. Click here for the complete series index.]

Makeovers to two parks along the Santa Barbara waterfront — one already done, the other upcoming — are designed to spruce up, add activities and restore a sense of safety.

In 2018, the Cabrillo Ball Field reopened after a $1.5 million renovation that upgraded the softball field, replaced turf and irrigation, added a walking path along the perimeter with new lighting and installed 13 pieces of aerobic and strength-training equipment.

Other improvements to the five-acre park at 800 E. Cabrillo Blvd. at South Milpas Street include an enhanced entry at the eye-catching rainbow-colored Chromatic Gate created by the late artist Herbert Bayer and installed in 1991.

Nearby Dwight Murphy Field is in for even more: In August, the Santa Barbara Planning Commission unanimously approved a $6 million renovation plan for the 10½-acre park between Niños and Por La Mar drives. The project will replace the grass soccer field with synthetic turf and add a youth baseball field; a new and larger outdoor fitness area; and new lighting, restrooms and sidewalks.

Depending on the pace of fundraising, the Dwight Murphy project could be complete by 2023.

Both parks fell into a widely perceived shabbiness and dilapidation that kept people away. The improvements to Cabrillo Ball Field are endorsed by the popularity of the walking path and exercise equipment.

Outdoor workouts became vogue with indoor COVID-19 restrictions, and that seems likely to outlive the plague.

“I think more people will probably stick with it because they realized they like it and won’t go back into gyms,” Robert Bijl, 41, said during a recent Cabrillo Ball Field workout.


The Santa Bárbara Central Coast Soccer League, a Sunday feature at Dwight Murphy Field since 1963, will benefit from a planned new pitch at the heavily used field. (Dennis Moran / Noozhawk photo)

“They’ll just keep doing this. I think we’re at an advantage: We live somewhere that allows (exercising outdoors) roughly 360 days a year.”

Aside from the ambience of sunshine and seashore, the simple outdoor contraptions provide all that’s needed for true fitness — and they’re free, said Bijl, an obviously fit Santa Barbaran.

“I worked out in gyms forever, and then I switched to this stuff and I got in better shape,” he said.

The time-honored sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, stretching, with the enhancements of the outdoor equipment and perhaps some guidance, can accomplish a lot.

Robert Bijl

Robert Bijl demonstrates inclined sit-ups at the Cabrillo Ball Field. (Dennis Moran / Noozhawk photo)

“Overall there’s not really much, honestly, you need to do more than that,” Bijl said. “That’s like the idea of calisthenics, which are very popular now. Everything can be done outside with your body weight.”

He mentioned the group called Santa Barbara Bar Life, which does training on the bars and the existing equipment at Dwight Murphy Field, but also with the new equipment at Cabrillo Ball Field.

And the fitness equipment at Dwight Murphy will be expanded with the upcoming renovation, along with a new soccer pitch to replace the well-worn field used by the Santa Barbara Women’s Soccer Organization on Saturdays and the men’s Santa Bárbara Central Coast Soccer League on Sundays.

At Cabrillo Ball Field, the walking path, exercise equipment and improved ball field and park help draw more “positive” activity that helps deter misuse that had grown before the renovation, City of Santa Barbara recreation manager Rich Hanna told Noozhawk.

Dwight Murphy Field

A rendering shows what the Dwight Murphy Park renovation might look like once the project is completed in 2023. (RRM Design Group rendering )

“It just gave us a way to activate the park in a popular way,” he said. “It’s taken off great. I go by there weekdays, weekends, at different times, and there’s always people using the equipment.”

And the increased “positive activity” deters the “misuse stuff that we get,” such as illegal behavior like drugs, alcohol, prostitution, vandalism and vagrancy.

“It’s helped this area a lot,” Bijl said of the renovation to Cabrillo Ball Field. “Cleaned it up. You see a lot of families here now. It’s a huge change.”

Noozhawk correspondent Dennis Moran can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Dennis Moran, Noozhawk Correspondent

Noozhawk correspondent Dennis Moran can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.