Celebration set for Friday at Eureka’s Jefferson School
From the Westside Community Improvement Association press release:
In August 2010 the Eureka City Council voted unanimously to pursue the conversion of Jefferson School into a Public Park and Community Recreation Facility as a Redevelopment project. With the future of State Redevelopment Agencies so unsure, the City was not able to risk continuing with the plan.
In April of 2011, Westside Community Improvement Association, formally, the City’s Jefferson Committee became the successful bidder for the School site.
In June of 2011, Bill Rodstrom, Senior Planner for Redwood Community Action Agency contacted Heidi Benzonelli, President of WCIA and said “look at this funding opportunity, it looks like it was written for your project, I think we can write this.” With less than 3 weeks ‘til deadline, Bill, Heidi and Richard Evans, Vice President of WCIA, pulled out all the stops and were able to utilize the City’s investment in planning, engineering, community scoping meetings, and develop the community’s wishes for this site into a proposal for the Jefferson Park and Community Recreation Facility.
In July 2011, escrow closed and Westside Community Improvement Association (formally the City’s Jefferson Committee) was able to secure the land.
Redwood Community Action Agency agreed to partner with the budding non-profit and help pursue the goals of preserving this 2 acre site for public use, revitalizing a neighborhood in blight and restoring common ground to the Westside.
A series of site visits and complicated grant and budget revisions ensued and once again the community came together. Songmi Sweet of Umpqua Bank, Praj White of Manhard Consulting, Marco Luna from the Humboldt County Sherriff office, Linda Atkins of Eureka City Council and actually, everyone who was asked, came to the school to show their support and offer their expertise to see this project to success. “Senator Noreen Evans and Assemblyman Wesly Chesbro both wrote letters supporting our efforts. The Office of Grants and Local Services was clearly impressed and agreed with Bill Rodstrom, this funding was meant for projects just like this.”
And on March 28th, 2012 Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program awarded Westside Community Improvement Association $3,305,560 to create the new Jefferson Park and Community Center in the City of Eureka through the acquisition and development of the 2 acre parcel. Plans include a playground, garden, walking paths, basketball courts, bocce courts, a public park, restrooms and parking and renovate the existing north building and portables for a community resource library, multi-purpose room, infant/toddler center, community recreation room, kitchen and restrooms.
The grant application states “parks are unique places where children can play, people can exercise, families can bond, seniors can socialize, youth can be mentored, cultures can share and celebrate their differences, and everyone can connect with nature. For these reasons, vibrant parks funded by this program will be a cost-effective means of creating humane, livable communities.”
We can not agree more!
Please join us for a press conference and community celebration beginning at 12:00 noon on Friday April 13th at Jefferson School, 1000 B Street, Eureka.
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History of the Jefferson School Project and the Westside Community Improvement Association
In 2005 due to declining citywide enrollment, Eureka City Schools closed Jefferson School, the heart of the Westside of Eureka. Eureka’s Westside is the lowest income and highest ethnically diverse section of our city. The Jefferson playground for over 70 years served as a place for the children to play, for families to meet, where cultural differences were shared, where conflicts were resolved and social development occurred. When the school was closed the playground was locked. The school building fell into a state of disrepair and often vandalized. Without a park or play round the children of the Westside have only the streets and allies to play in.
The Westside holds an estimated 3,848 citizens within a half mile of Jefferson School. The number of youth is estimated at 860. It is the most densely populated neighborhood in Eureka. Without Jefferson School and playground there are no recreational activities or places to encourage healthy socializing. The lack of any common space can affect the heath and well-being of every resident from parents seeking a safe place to stroll with infants, young people craving recreation, to seniors and the handicapped needing exercise and companionship.
For 6 years, a group of concerned Westside residents now known as the Westside Community Improvement Association (WCIA) has held meetings and planning sessions to revitalize this neighborhood facility and convert the abandoned asphalt schoolyard into a project known as the Jefferson Park and Community Center. The Redwood Community Action Agency ( RCAA) has supported this endeavor from the outset and the Department of Public Health has used our project as a model to present how health impact assessments can improve a projects design to benefit the community In 2011 our group was able to raise enough money and secure financing to purchase the site.
The Westside Community Improvement Association (WCIA) is now in the phase of revitalizing the site, conducting clean up parties , planning meetings, and fundraising events. WCIA has been awarded several planning and scoping grants from local agencies and we are seeking support from California’s Pop 84 Grants for the creation of new parks.
We on the Westside are excited to be moving forward with many committed community partners, and a well developed plan. The sense of community is growing as the realization of just how transformative a park, playground, and community center will be to the children, elders, and families of this long neglected neighborhood.
To find out how you can help, please go to our How You Can Help page.
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Local community comments regarding the recent $3.3 million Jefferson Park and Community Center award can be found here.
(posted by Skippy Massey for the Humboldt Sentinel)