$500,000 Grant for Bella Vista Park (CA)

OAKLAND, 8/28/01 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the city of Oakland announced today their receipt of a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service (NPS). The federal funding will be used for the Bella Vista Park rehabilitation project.

TPL is working in collaboration with the city of Oakland and the Friends of Bella Vista Park (FOBVP) to improve and expand upon the existing facilities at Bella Vista Park, located in Oakland’s San Antonio district, the city’s most densely populated and park-poor district. The funds came out of the NPS’s Urban Park and Recreation Recovery program (UPARR), nationally targeted at distressed neighborhoods for improvement of recreation services.

The San Antonio district has less than one-fifth of Oakland’s standard of four acres of park space per 1,000 residents. In addition, 30 percent of the district’s population is under 18 years of age. As the sole playground for the severely overcrowded Bella Vista Elementary School, the renovation of Bella Vista Park will maximize the recreational, educational, and ecological potential of the park and provide open space resources for 800 school children and almost 69,000 San Antonio residents.

The dilapidated 1.1-acre park is completely covered by asphalt and offers only aging basketball hoops, tennis courts, and a play structure. There is no landscaping in the park or plants other than weeds, and no place to sit. The rehabilitation of the park will significantly increase the type, variety, and quality of recreational opportunities.

The new Bella Vista Discovery Park project will include removing the asphalt and replacing it with trees, grass, and other landscaping and installing drinking fountains, ADA compliant bathrooms, picnic tables, and benches. Also included in the plans are a nature center, a story circle, and community artwork. The existing garden on Bella Vista Elementary School grounds will be expanded into a large community garden, featuring plants that will create a butterfly habitat. The current sports site, which many neighborhood youth identified as a priority, will be upgraded.

Jennifer Lowe, a FOBVP member, says, “TPL is providing us with the means to build a community through the Bella Vista Park renovation project. Neighbors of diverse ages, incomes and cultures are working together to create a new social and recreational heart for the upper San Antonio.”

Over that past year TPL was able to raise nearly $750,000 for the rehabilitation of Bella Vista Park, both in state funds and in private funds from The San Francisco Foundation, the Elizabeth and Stephen Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, and MetLife Foundation. It then leveraged these funds to apply for the UPARR grant. Lafayette Park in downtown Oakland is an example of the successful renewal that can occur with the help of UPARR funding. The combination of private, state, and UPARR funds brings TPL close to its $1.5 million fundraising goal for the project.

“Our private foundation dollars were really instrumental in leveraging over $1 million in public funding,” says Garlen Capita, program manager for TPL’s Urban Parks program.

Danny Wan, City Councilmember for District 2 says, “The success we’ve had in raising funds to rebuild Bella Vista Park is the direct result of people working together. We’ve seen an organized neighborhood group working in collaboration with its elected officials and with TPL, whose participation has been key to our efforts.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that works to conserve land for people, to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide. The mission of TPL’s Urban Parks program is to improve and sustain a high quality of life in urban areas in California through the creation and preservation of natural areas, high-quality parks, playgrounds, and other recreational amenities. In Oakland, TPL has revitalized Lincoln Square Park, Nicol Park, and is working on Union Point Park.