Elings Park added an adult kickball league to its widely varied roster of athletic programs in 2023. (Elings Park photo)

Make the most of your charitable giving this holiday season and end the year by giving back to one or several of your favorite nonprofits. Join Noozhawk on #GivingTuesday and donate to one of the local nonprofits listed in our Giving Guide!

Noozhawk is teaming up with local nonprofits to encourage you to take part in this international day of giving, which takes place on November 28th, 2023.

Our Good for Santa Barbara Nonprofit Section provides all the resources you need to donate this holiday season!

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Dean Noble, Executive Director at Elings Park, to learn more about how the nonprofit is dedicated to providing recreational facilities in an exceptional setting for the benefit of all citizens of the Santa Barbara area.

Elings Park

Question: What is the name and mission of your nonprofit?

Answer: Elings Park makes Santa Barbara happier, healthier, smarter and more inspired through the arts, recreation and nature.

Q: How long has your nonprofit been in service, and who are its founders?

A: Elings Park officially opened to the public on November 17, 1985. The first meeting of the park’s founders occurred nearly 20 years earlier in January 1965.

The initial meeting was organized by Jerry Harwin, and included other “fierce advocates for parks” and notable youth-athletic boosters Michael Pahos, Caesar Uyesaka, and Foster Pratt.

The park’s founders were eager to transform a decommissioned town dump into much-needed athletic fields and community gathering places. True to Santa Barbara’s environmental heritage, this was one of the first major park “greenscaping” projects in America.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your nonprofit?

A: What started as 90 acres of scrub and a tennis complex now houses 230 acres of thriving soccer, rugby, kickball, and softball leagues, a BMX bike track, a disk golf course, facilities for both remote control airplanes and cars, and the oldest continuously operated paraglider training hill in North America. Cultural performances include a host of festivals and live music ranging from ballet to bluegrass.

Over 900 dogs run off-leash at the park as ‘members” of the Elings Park Dog Owners Group. (Elings Park photo)

Q: How is your nonprofit primarily funded and what are your greatest needs?

A: Many local residents don’t realize that Elings Park is a private nonprofit organization (501c3). We receive no government funding for operations or maintenance and remain open admission-free year-round. In fact, we are the largest privately funded, public park in the country. We’re more than two times the size of Disneyland.

Q: In what ways does your nonprofit utilize its funding?

A: Eighty percent of the park’s operational budget is covered by user fees. We rely on the generosity of the community for the rest.

Q: What types of fundraisers and/or programs does your nonprofit run?

A: Over the past four-years, the $10 million Elings Park Capital Campaign (“EPIC”) has allowed us to rehab restrooms, patios, roadways, and sidewalks. We’ve added an entry kiosk, repaired trails, and planted hundreds of California native oaks and shrubs.

We’re mid-way through renovation on the 1970s-era Tennis Center and have begun work on improvements to our popular wedding site Godric Grove and other amenities. More funding improves and beautifies this community treasure. Please join this important effort!

Q: Describe your organizations staffing models and internal operations. Has anything changed since the start of your nonprofit?

A: Elings Park manages this large and beautiful property with an administrative staff of four and grounds crew of four.

Q: How do people get involved/volunteer for your nonprofit?

Elings Park has planted over 600 oak trees and 4,000 native shrubs in the past four years – with more to come! (Elings Park photo)

A: We’re collaborating with Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and looking for volunteers to help us transform one acre in the South Park area (near the paragliding hill) using California native plants. No gardening experience necessary – just a love of the park. Visit our website for more information.

Q: What makes your nonprofit different from others?

A: Great cities have great parks. Elings Park is to Santa Barbara what Central Park is to New York, Golden Gate Park to San Francisco, and Balboa Park is to San Diego. With sports, outdoor recreation, summer camps, weddings, and special events, it is a treasured place for residents to gather and share in nature.

Q: What is one best kept secret or fun fact about your nonprofit that not everyone knows?

A: Seventy-five percent of the park’s 230 acres are undeveloped. In five minutes, you can walk from the soccer fields to dramatic open space. Nine miles of trails wind through oak groves and meadows, and offer sweeping views of the mountains, city, and Pacific Ocean – all the way to the Channel Islands.

Q: Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?

A: Elings Park hosts over eight summer camps per year which often sell out. Programs range from our popular, Outdoor Adventure Camp, to theater, softball, tennis, peer-socialization and more.

Q: How does the work of your nonprofit get communicated to the public?

A: The community can subscribe to our monthly e-blasts and follow us on social media.

Q: Why should donors trust your organization and are there other ways to help outside of donations?

A: Elings Park has been operating as a nonprofit since 1965. Please visit our website to see all that we have to offer.

Q: Can you tell us one short-term goal AND one long-term goal that your nonprofit has for the next year?

A: In the short term, we are eager to complete restoration of our beloved tennis center. When completed, the Elings Park Tennis Center will be one of the most charming and beautiful athletic centers in Southern or Central California – not to mention, it’s affordable.

Long term plans are underway to reforest our South Bluffs with native trees including coast live oaks and Torrey pines.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about your nonprofit that has not been mentioned above?

A: The dedicated users of the park also include 900 canine members. Owners register their well-behaved canine companions as “EPDOGS” to enjoy the entire park off-leash.

Click here to support Elings Park mission to continue providing a place for sports and athletic endeavors for people of all ages, from all neighborhoods, and from all walks of life.

Check out Noozhawk’s Guide to Giving for a full list of nonprofits to donate to this giving season.

If you would like to include your nonprofit in our Good for Santa Barbara section and Giving Guide click HERE.