Watsonville’s first new park in 20 years a boost to ‘underserved’ area
Santa Cruz County is getting its first new park in more than two decades after county supervisors voted unanimously late last month to approve the purchase of 35.5 acres of land at 188 Whiting Rd. in Watsonville.
The residents of Watsonville are finally getting a new park.
Santa Cruz County is getting its first new park in more than two decades after county supervisors voted unanimously late last month to approve the purchase of 35.5 acres of land on 188 Whiting Rd. in Watsonville.
The $2.3 million purchase has been in the works since 2020, an effort originally led by previous Fourth District Supervisor Greg Caput and now supported by the district’s current supervisor, Felipe Hernandez. “Supervisor Caput only had one park in his district and it’s a relatively small park,” said Santa Cruz County communications manager Jason Hoppin. “He wanted to add a second park, which became a priority of the county because that area was underserved from a parks standpoint so it became an equity project for us.”
The property for the future park has sat vacant for several years, Hoppin said. Owned by a trust, the family that benefited from the trust live in Southern California and wanted the land off their hands.
Hoppin said there will be public meetings held in the future for the community to have a say in the final design of the park, but the county hopes to have some walking paths, athletic fields and a demonstration farm for interim use while the final design comes to fruition. Development is expected to take 18 months.
The county hopes this new park, near the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, will improve youth physical activity to prevent heart disease and diabetes.
The City of Watsonville says it currently has 26 parks totaling about 143 acres of park space — a number that falls significantly behind the National Recreation and Park Association’s average acre-to-population ratio.
According to the association, the average amount of park space in the United States is about 10.8 acres for every 1,000 residents. Currently, Watsonville has less than 3 acres for every 1,000 residents.
One Watsonville resident and mother of two young children says there are no parks close to her house. The park with the closest drive, she said, “there’s no parking, and when you do go you have to park in people’s neighborhoods.”
Some residents say that among the handful of parks available to them, many feel run-down, with graffiti and trash, making it feel unwelcoming to children.
Watsonville Parks and Recreation Commission youth representative Izabella León says that her wish for future parks is for them to be accessible. “I’m an able-bodied person, but I know a lot of kids feel reluctant because they’re not wheelchair-accessible,” said León, who was a summer intern at Lookout.
She said she hopes the new park development will be modeled similarly to the newly renovated Ramsay Park, which is accessible under Americans With Disabilities Act regulations and what she describes as a “much more friendly park” that is loved by families throughout Watsonville.
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