California Park & Recreation Society awards Earlimart Neighborhood Park its top award
TULARE COUNTY – The best things come to those who wait. The Earlimart Neighborhood Park is proof. No one waited longer than Earlimart to get a community patch of grass for kids to play safely away from the rural roadways. It took eight years for Tulare County to identify enough funding to build the park and last month it earned the distinction of being excellent.
Last month, Earlimart Neighborhood Park received the 2018 California Park & Recreation Society’s (CPRS) Award of Excellence, Neighborhood Class 1: Category of Excellence in Park Planning & Development. The award was accepted by Aaron Bock, Tulare County Resource Management Agency assistant planning director, and Abigail Solis, Earlimart School District Board of Trustees president.
Built in December 2017, the idea came eight years earlier when a committee was formed to investigate and discover healthier lifestyles including eating and exercise. Solis said the committee was called PARRK (Physical Activity Really Rocks).
The local schools had some playground equipment, but the community of about 10,000 lacked in green recreational area. Property adjoining the elementary school seemed like a perfect fit. It’s about four acres that was reserved for future school development. But, the park took precedence. It was a vacant lot, that had only been used once or twice a year when the carnival came to town.
PARRK learned of a grant opportunity for park development, but alone it could not qualify. They asked Tulare County’s Board of Supervisors to jump on board with the idea and they did, entering into a joint-powers agreement to get the park built. Through Proposition 84, the Statewide Park Program, Earlimart received more than $2.15 million for park development.
The bids came in a bit higher than the grant allowed. Not wanting to compromise, the school district chipped in an additional $115,000 and the county $500,000 to realize the Earlimart dream.
“This project was a collaborative effort,” said Supervisor Pete Vander Poel, who represents District 2 encompassing Earlimart. “When Tulare County received the grant, we conducted a significant amount of outreach to engage stakeholders to ensure that the park was designed with the community’s desires in mind. As a result of these engagements, this park is the jewel of the community, and is a place that residents of all ages can enjoy.”
The CPRS awards program recognizes outstanding achievement in the areas of facility design, park planning, marketing and communication, as well as community improvement and programming through demonstrating the “CREAM” principals: Challenge, Resourcefulness, Execution, Accomplishment and alignment with the Parks and Recreation’s Mission.
According to the Award committee the Earlimart Park embodied the principles from the beginning stages of planning to the final stage of opening the completed facility which includes grass open space, basketball courts, playgrounds, picnic facilities, community art, and site lighting.
Tulare County’s Board of Supervisors are proud of the accomplishments of Earlimart Neighborhood Park, as this is just one of several state-wide awards the park has received.
“It’s great to see what collaboration and diligence can achieve,” Supervisor Vander Poel said. “This project truly met the highest standards of achieving excellence, and this award demonstrates that.”