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Santa Maria River Levee Trail Named For Tom Urbanske

Retired teacher also served on City Council, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors

Former councilman Tom Urbanske, with supporter Jeanne Sparks, was honored Tuesday night when the Santa Maria City Council named the trail along the Santa Maria River Levee after him.
Former councilman Tom Urbanske, with supporter Jeanne Sparks, was honored Tuesday night when the Santa Maria City Council named the trail along the Santa Maria River Levee after him. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A trail near the Santa Maria River will sport the name of Tom Urbanske — recognizing the former elected official and longtime advocate's role championing recreational activities on the levee and other service to the community. 

The Santa Maria City Council on Tuesday night approved a resolution calling the multipurpose path the “Tom Urbanske Levee Trail.”

Urbanske taught for many years before becoming a City Council member, and later represented the Fifth District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

“Everybody knows Mr. Urbanske. If you don’t, you should,” Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada said, referring to a slide that described him as council member, county supervisor, volunteer and advocate.

“But I think advocate is probably the most important,” Posada said. “For those of you that have been around the community, you know that any major issue facing the community, Councilman Urbanske was involved in. 

“I’m very happy to able to present this item to you tonight and to Tom,” Posada said. “He’s just done an outstanding job for the community.” 

The recognition earlier received the blessing of the Recreation and Parks Commission after Jeanne Sparks and Barry Stotts urged officials to honor Urbanske for his years of service.

To make the change, Recreation and Parks Department officials sought an amendment to the agreement between the city and Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District creating the multi-purpose trail. 

Urbanske, who is in his 80s, was first elected to the City Council in 1972, and served 14 years before stepping down in 1995 upon being elected to the Board of Supervisors.

He served eight years as a county supervisor for the district representing Santa Maria before leaving in 2002. 

“The things that he has done are way too long to mention them all,” said Sparks, a former aide for Urbanske while he served as county supervisor. 

In that job, Urbanske helped convince Santa Barbara County officials to allow recreational uses on the levee.

“He had a very instrumental role in getting that levee trail, and of course had instrumental roles in lots of other things in this community,” Sparks said. “We’re so thankful that you’re naming this for him, and that people for generations to come can say, “That’s the Tom Urbanske Trail.’ 

“And that’s just a really cool thing,” she added.

Urbanske has lived in northern Santa Barbara County since 1961. He taught at Santa Maria High School for 30 years, and later served on an elementary school board for five years. 

Urbanske noted that his wife, Barbara, a stay-at-home mom, deserves credit for her role raising their four children. 

He has been active on several nonprofit organizations, including Good Samaritan Shelter.

“His commitment to those in need and the most vulnerable in our community is undying,” said Councilman Jack Boysen. 

“Tom Urbanske, I just hope that 20 years from now, people look back at Jack Boysen and say, ‘You know, he’s almost as good as Tom Urbanske.”

Mayor Alice Patino noted Urbanske often could be seen riding his bike or jogging around town, making the multipurpose trail recognition so appropriate. 

She said he has consistently advocated for people who cannot advocate for themselves. 

“You cannot help but appreciate someone who is consistently what Santa Maria embodies,” she said. 

A ceremony recognizing the trail's new name is expected to be held in six weeks, city officials said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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