By Olivia Henry, The Ivanhoe Sol
IVANHOE, Calif. – Why doesn’t Ivanhoe have its own public park? Residents revisited this question at the Jan. 31 Ivanhoe Community Council meeting, echoing concerns that have been raised for years about Ivanhoe’s lack of green spaces – especially with facilities for children.
The need for a park was identified in the Ivanhoe Community Plan 2019 Update. The plan notes that the only somewhat-public green space is the Boys & Girls Club sports field, but that the southern part of Ivanhoe has no facilities.
Blanca Escobedo, a former policy advocate with Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, explained that a county-supported effort to develop a park in Ivanhoe stalled in 2020. Escobedo said that an application to at least one state grant program was put on hold because the project wasn’t “shovel ready” – no suitable, available piece of land could be identified.
Elsewhere in the county, the story of Earlimart Neighborhood Park shows how an unincorporated community could pursue a new park. The roughly 4-acre green space with a playground, picnic facilities and BBQ pits was formerly an empty lot next to Earlimart Elementary School. The school district worked with the Tulare County Resource Management Agency to win a $2.15 million grant from California Department of Parks and Recreation’s Prop. 84 funds in 2011. The project was completed in 2017. The Sun-Gazette reported that planning and construction took eight years, with the county contributing an additional $500,000 and the school district $115,000.
Tulare County ranks last in the state when it comes to park access for its residents. According to the CDC, just 12 percent of people live within one-half mile of a park. But there are efforts to change that. In 2021, the county was awarded almost $25 million in state Prop. 68 funds to build three new parks in Visalia, Porterville and Woodlake – adding to the county’s existing 11 parks. In 2022, the county allocated $8 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars to upgrade existing facilities.
Escobedo encouraged residents to keep looking for sites and communicating with county staff about possible funding. “People in Ivanhoe are going to jump on [the right opportunity] to build their community how they want it.”
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