Community pitches in to develop first master plan for MacArthur Park

Community members were given the chance to play the role of a Parks, Recreation and Marine Department planner, this weekend, by envisioning a future MacArthur Park; one with more amenities, security and parking in a part of Long Beach that is largely marginalized in terms of green space accessibility.

Two different community meetings were held on Saturday, March 2—one at 9 a.m., one at 1 p.m.—where attendees were surveyed about their current usage of the park and asked to help design a new and improved layout. The process comes ahead of a huge grant opportunity this summer, called the Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Grant Program.

The city’s Parks and Rec department, the Sixth District, nonprofit design studio City Fabrick, AOC7 Neighborhood Group, Friends of MacArthur Park and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust are working together to ultimately develop a master plan in order to be eligible in August to apply for up to $8 million in funds.

This will be the first master plan developed for MacArthur Park, and while the aforementioned grant opportunity spurred the process, the plan will be useful for other grants and development projects in the future, said Meredith Reynolds, Parks and Rec planning and partnerships manager.

“MacArthur Park is highly eligible for these grant dollars because of its location, because of its community, and because of all the great cultural programs that happen at this park,” Reynolds said to attendees.

Currently, the park has a basketball and volleyball courts, a playground, a sports field, a 70-seat theater and art gallery and is home to Homeland Cultural Center used by the community for a number of artistic and cultural programs.

Surveys handed out at the meetings included questions on who the city should be most mindful of when redesigning the park; participants could check a box next to families, children, teens, seniors, the transient population, teams, visitors, or those with accessibility needs.

Other questions asked participants what amenities they’d like to see installed, what programs implemented, and how often and when they visit the park, as well as how they get there. The survey also clarified: “While there is no existing funding dedicated to park improvements at this time, the creation of a park master plan will help to prioritize future improvements in a community-driven process.”

Large, board game-like maps of the existing area were placed on tables in the community room at the Manazar Gamboa Community Theater, where participants added stickers representing amenities such as bathrooms, shade structures, outdoor seating, landscaping, concession stands, fitness equipment, gardens and art galleries.

Maps taped to the wall from the 9 a.m. meeting showed participants’ preferences for keeping the park’s existing volleyball and basketball courts in place, moving the restrooms to a safer, more visible area, adding more lights, a soccer field and a walking path around the park’s perimeter.

Attendees also discussed adding security cameras, increasing community policing, and adding more parking, while Alex Jung, urban designer for City Fabrick helped guide the conversation.

“We talked about how the community center, Gamboa theater, and playground are all things that we want to keep and we don’t want to erase any of it, so we kept them in the design and we’re just asking folks to help us envision the park [around them],” said Jung.

Rocio Torres, left and Mary Simmons, right of Friends of MacArthur Park stand in front of the community’s ideas for a revamped MacArthur Park on Saturday, March 2. Photo by Asia Morris.

“Our primary vision is, of course, public safety, a place to play, laugh,” said AOC7 Neighborhood Group board member Mary Simmons.

A redesign of the park would help with its fluctuating safety concerns, said Friends of MacArthur Park member Rocio Torres, who’s been a resident of the area for the past 40 years and has seen the neighborhood improve with help from AOC7 Neighborhood Group.

Now it’s time for the park to follow suit.

After dark and during colder weather there are less eyes on the park, adding safety features and programming to encourage usage during these times would greatly benefit the community, including educational resources for students and their parents, Torres said.

In response to why MacArthur Park is just now getting more attention from the city, Torres said, “Because there’s not enough noise. And that’s what we’re doing now, thinking big.”

Reynolds assured attendees this wouldn’t be the last time they’d be able to provide input before the grant’s August deadline as well as take the “board game” on the road to different community groups.

Secondary sessions, some with concepts pulled from Saturday’s meetings, will take place at Friends of MacArthur Park’s audit of the park and cleanup on Saturday, March 16 from 8:30 to 11 a.m., the 11th annual Cambodia Town Culture Festival at Mark Twain Library on Sunday, April 7 and at AOC7’s 7th annual literacy fair at the park on May 11.

Check for updates on the Friends of MacArthur Park Facebook page here and AOC7 Neighborhood Group’s page here. MacArthur Park is located at 1321 E. Anaheim St.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.