There’s a bite-sized bluff area overlooking the ocean in Long Beach. It’s bordered by sidewalks, and its grassy knoll sprawls between the Long Beach Museum of Art and the 1900 Ocean Beach Club.
If you’re still lost, it’s the one where Yogalution hosts its large free outdoor classes. You’ve probably rubbernecked the spectacle while driving along Ocean Boulevard.
The park holds both good and bad memories for me—it’s where I’ve taken many yoga classes and where I usually watch the annual Pride Parade. It’s also where I had my phone plucked from my purse in broad daylight, and where I had the worst first date of my short life (if you are reading this, I am sorry, and thank you for the sushi).
Most recently, that park became the center of a newsroom debate—what is the name of that park? The consensus in the newsroom was that it is called Bluff Park, of course—obviously. But a sign that appeared in the park recently begs to differ.
According to that sign, which I spotted recently, it is now called Bixby Annex Park. (If you didn’t know, Bixby Park is that bigger park across the street).
Kurt Curtis, the conductor of the Long Beach Municipal Band, has also long called that area Bluff Park. It’s where the 113-year-old band has been playing for just around 15 years. His father, the late Larry Curtis, was the band’s longest-standing conductor before him, and he also called it Bluff Park.
I asked Curtis what he calls that park, and when his response was laughter, I exhaled validation.
“The last couple of years have been kind of funny about the whole thing,” he said.
The Bixby Annex Park sign went up this February after the city had apparently been receiving proposals to rename and re-sign the area for years. Most of the requests came from Municipal Band concert-goers, according to Jane Grobaty, spokesperson for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Marine Department.
Her husband and my desk neighbor, Tim Grobaty, was one of the people insisting to me that that park is, indeed, called Bluff Park after I labeled it Bixby Annex Park in a newsletter. Tim has been a columnist in Long Beach for decades. If he’s confused, we all are.
The thing is, what we called Bluff Park was just a piece of the actual Bluff Park, which really begins at South 36th Place and Ocean Boulevard and ends at the museum. And then there’s the fact that most of that area is considered to be the neighborhood of Bluff Park. Quite the mess, isn’t it?
“I am told that the sign was installed to be helpful in directing people to the Municipal Band concert site, which we used to call, ‘Bixby Bluff.’ While it really is Bluff Park, residents wanted the connection made to Bixby Park across the street, so ‘Bixby Annex’ was proposed. Many feel that Bluff is so long and divided by the Museum of Art and apartments that the sign would help,” Jane told me in a recent email.
Curtis confirmed this story. Bluff Park is typically where the city itself directs people to watch the Municipal Band when they’ve played there.
“But last year, a gentleman came up and said, ‘You know, that’s not the technical name of it. Bluff Park is that little section a little farther south,’” Curtis said. “So I took that to the city.”
Then the city returned a year later, with an official proposal to clear up all the confusion: officially name the contested piece of land, “Bixby Annex.”
But here’s the other thing: If you Google “Bixby Annex,” the search returns naught. The only place online the park is labeled as such is on the city’s 2023 Municipal Band Summer Schedule.
On Tuesday night, the Municipal Band held the “It’s Showtime” performance in Bixby Annex, but Curtis said concert-goers were still expressing confusion about the park’s name.
“We put ‘Bixby Annex,’ and people are confused now thinking, ‘Well, so did you move?’” he said. “That was the impetus of the change. It’s almost too bad it couldn’t have just stayed the way it was, because everybody knew where Bluff Park was, you know, even if it was incorrect.”
Curtis has played trumpet with the Municipal Band for 25 years and is in his third year of conducting the band, picking up where his father left off, so I figured he must place strong sentimental value behind calling it Bluff Park, where the band has played so many times.
“I truly want to call it the appropriate name, whatever that is,” he said.
But Curtis said in the end, it didn’t seem to terribly affect Tuesday night’s concert.
“We had a big crowd last night, so apparently they figured it out.”
Here’s another fun municipal fact for you: There’s another park in Long Beach dedicated to Kurt Curtis’ father—it’s simply called Conductor Larry Curtis Concert Park.