The Elings Park Foundation Chairman’s Council celebrated the 31st anniversary of the community park at the 25th annual Chairman’s Council Party on June 3, with a small group of donors and supporters and views of the Pacific Ocean, Santa Cruz Island and Las Positas Canyon from Godric Grove.
Elings Park is located in Santa Barbara’s Mesa neighborhood, where the 230 acres form the largest privately funded public park in America with year-round access to natural space and recreational areas, including a BMX track, baseball diamonds and hiking.
The group in attendance brought together advocates of a campaign to rejuvenate the park and infrastructure, including paths, trails and roads requiring ongoing improvements and renewal.
Virgil Elings and others were able to purchase an area for the park that may have otherwise become ocean-facing condos through the result of a timely sale for the south parkland that provides the community with a cherished land.
A highly motivated, innovative group of public officials, community and business leaders committed themselves more than 50 years ago to transforming a municipal landfill into a major recreational facility and public open space.
These key members established the goal of creating a park that serves all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds through a public and nonprofit partnership that provides a park for the community built by user fees, grants and donations.
Welcoming 200,000 visitors annually, the park also offers a tennis complex, an outdoor amphitheater, a radio-controlled car track, a hang-gliding training hill and basketball hoops. Additionally, spaces for scenic weddings and events, such as graduations and baptisms, are offered with picnic and barbecue areas for the whole family to enjoy.
Godric Grove has become one of the premier wedding sites in Santa Barbara County, with the first wedding taking place at this beautiful spot in June 1983. In 1980, the Godric Foundation pledged $3 million over the decade for this popular and scenic site, originally called the “Founder’s Grove.”
The Chairman’s Council Party kicked off with cocktails and appetizers with the festive sounds of the Doublewide Kings Band keeping the atmosphere lively.
The Las Positas Park Foundation received nonprofit status in 1980, and later in the decade three lighted softball fields were officially opened in 1988, at the Castagnola Complex.
At the end of 1990, the Chairman’s Council was formed, and in 1991, the park was renamed Las Positas Friendship Park, until 1999, when local entrepreneur and philanthropist Elings donated $1.5 million to the endowment fund, along with Elings family member Betty Wells with $800,000, and the park was renamed Elings Park, and the foundation became the Elings Park Foundation. The B.P. Moser Trust also donated $460,000 toward the purchase of the Jesuit property.
Additional key moments in the park’s growth include its off-leash dog status, Veterans Memorial Walk and Terrace of Remembrance with support from the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation and the Summit for Danny sculpture by artist John Fisher in Godric Circle.
Supporters of this unique community venue have worked to increase the usage of the park, and to improve and expand existing facilities.
With only three administrative staff and four maintenance workers, the park maintains a balance, but faces the challenges of an infrastructure that is at least 30 years old.
Click here for more information about Elings Park, including how to donate or volunteer.
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.