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Local News

For Isla Vista Recreation & Park District, Hiring New General Manager No Easy Task

Interim leader says position comes with a host of challenges, including transients, trash and a small staff

The Isla Vista Recreation & Park District is continuing its search for a new general manager to fill the vacancy created when Jeff Lindgren resigned from the position in June.

The district has solicited candidates from across the country during its roughly three-month search, but applicants have come mostly from California and Washington, according to interim general manager Ken Warfield, a retired Santa Barbara librarian who is filling in until a successor is hired.

Warfield said the district hopes to begin making job offers starting this week, but that there is no telling when the position will be filled.

He said no manager has stayed for more than two years, and the position comes with a host of problems to confront.

“This place is a challenge,” IVRPD board member Roger Lagerquist said. “If you look at the parks, you will see how good they look right now and how trashed they get during the school year. We have problems with transients who stay here for a long time, drink a lot, use a lot of drugs and leave their needles in the park. When the school year comes, you will see how much trash can be generated in one short year.”

Lagerquist said adding to the difficulty in filling the position is the organization’s small size. Candidates will come from parks and recreation departments with 25 to 30 office employees and will be put off by the lack of staff members at the IVRPD office, which is located on the site of an old gas station next to the Isla Vista Food Co-op.

“We advertise good money,” Lagerquist said. “We advertise to Washington state — to people who are managing big park districts there with around 25 employees. The trouble with that is that they will walk in here and we don’t have 25 people. Here, we have office staff of two.”

The Isla Vista Recreation & Park District staff includes nine full-time employees who maintain and renovate the community’s 26 parks — a total of 50 acres of land — and an elected five-member Board of Directors to oversee the organization’s projects and operation.

Warfield said there is a misconception in the community that the IVRPD serves as a general governing body for Isla Vista. In fact, the organization has a much more limited scope of authority, he said.

“It’s a governmental body to provide recreation and park district stuff,” he said. “It’s not to provide or restrict policing, economic justice or any of the kind of things that we’re often expected to do. We have very, very limited purview — recreation and parks — and if you look at the parks, it’s spotty, which is why we need a (permanent) manager.”

Warfield said the foremost function the IVRPD serves is maintenance, which usually involves picking up the huge amount of trash that ends up in the park and painting over graffiti. There are five leads in the district’s ground crew who are each assigned certain parks to take care of along with a team. The IVRPD website details which lead is assigned to each park and provides an email link for each, so that park users can send feedback or concerns.

Some projects the district is working on include a plan to reduce water usage by replacing the current ground with organic soil, and the renovation of Estero Park, which Warfield said is currently largely gated off to allow the grass to take root and become more durable.

Click here for more information on the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District.

Noozhawk intern Patrick Kulp can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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