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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 11:53 pm | Fair 49º


Santa Barbara Parks Commission, Public Envision Field of Dreams for Cabrillo Ball Field

Among the ideas batted around include infrastructure improvements, adding amenities such as a playground and expanding use of the space

The Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Commission and the community got the chance Wednesday to dream about what the Cabrillo Ball Field could be in the future.

The beleaguered field, just yards from the glimmering Pacific Ocean, has long been a transition site for the city. It’s been a gathering place for the homeless, and poor drainage and a decline in park maintenance funding have all been challenges that have kept some of the public away from the park.

But that vision of the park began to fade as members of the public voiced interesting uses for the open space. Among the ideas posed for discussion included adding a children’s playground, a small water park for kids and a dog park, and expanding the types of sports fields in the space.

Parks Director Nancy Rapp said she was pleased with the meeting’s turnout, and that the ideas would give the commission options for the future.

“The intent tonight is just to share information,” she said.

Improvements such as installing new lights and increasing infrastructure to help with the area’s frequent flooding were proposed by parks staff. As with everything on the city’s wish list, however, the lack of funding often curtails improvements. The project area is within the city’s Redevelopment Agency, qualifying it for valuable RDA funds, but that program is in jeopardy as the state has threatened to shut it down to deal with its own budget problems. Community fundraising is also an option.

The city did get a $25,000 community development block grant, which is federal funding, for the fencing that was installed around the field’s backstop in January. That fencing was at the center of much of Wednesday’s discussion, and Lt. James Pfleging of the Santa Barbara Police Department said the department have seen improvements in the area since installation.

In January, police went from issuing 77 misdemeanor citations at the ball field in November to 17 during the first two weeks of January, Pfleging said.

“Anything that the commission wants to do to increase usage will always have a positive impact on the police department,” he said.

There has been movement among those homeless to other areas, though, and Pfleging said police have moved enforcement to East Beach and Chase Palm Park.

“(The fence) has been successful thus far,” Rapp said. “But we do have a continuing problem in our other park areas.”

Commissioner Beebe Longstreet advocated maximizing the field space.

“We need to keep this programmed all the time,” she said. “I don’t think anything is quite ruled out yet.” She then expressed concern about having playgrounds next to streets.

Commissioner Nicolas Ferrara said having women’s professional fast-pitch softball teams in Santa Barbara would increase revenue in the area as well as tourist traffic. He said he would like to see a feasibility study done on the idea.

“(The field) is a jewel in the rough right now,” he said. “It’s big enough for something like this.”

Even though funding isn’t currently available for the improvements, commission chairwoman Lesley Wiscomb said she believed that now is the time to be planning. She said striping the field differently during different times of year to accommodate multiple sports would maximize use of the field.

“We’re all very excited about this,” she told the audience, “and the enthusiasm from all of you is great.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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