Thursday, March 8, 2012

New Community Center to be Built at Re-Opened Orizaba Park

Orizaba Parks recent re-opening has been welcomed with a surge of recreational activity. Citizens now have a place to walk their pets and play recreationally. Orizaba Park is located near the corner of Anaheim Street and Obispo Avenue. Soon a new community center will be built at the park.

Programs at the nearby Freeman Community center in Long Beach will be moved to the Orizaba Community Center.

The Freeman Community center currently offers free after school programs for children in the community ages 5 to 14. Students are free to come and go as they please. Loraine, a worker at the Freeman Community Center said programs will be moved to Orizaba a summer from now.

Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine, in partnership with the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, recently re-opened Orizaba Park on January 21. The community center located at the park is still in the planning phase and is estimated to cost around $2.2 million.

Freeman Community Center is still a temporary location for the after school programs in the area and all the programs will be sent to the Orizaba Community Center upon completion.

“Freeman will not be open any more once Orizaba opens,” said Connie Oden, supervisor of the after school programs at Freeman.

Oden went on to mention that there have been discussions of keeping the Freeman Community Center open alongside the center at Orizaba but it is unlikely that will happen.

Long Beach Redevelopment funded the Orizaba Park re-opening with a total of $5.3 million. To help pay for the cost of the new community center, Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine applied for a Proposition 84 competitive grant that reimburses the cost of the development of sustainable community plans, of which they were successful in acquiring.

Construction at Orizaba park began late in 2009. New features developed include a new basketball court, picnic areas, soccer field, landscaping, flora, sidewalks, skate-park and outdoor exercise equipment. Also included was an extra 1.1 acres of land, increasing the park to a total of 3.7 acres.

Three warehouse buildings formally occupied the extra 1.1 acres bought by the Redevelopment Agency after it was proven that the removal of said buildings would not produce further unemployment. The buildings did not provide permanent jobs available to the community.

The Orizaba park expansion opens up more open space in a part of Long Beach that has very few parks with many low income residents.

“[The city] was not able to build the building and the land at the same time,” said Oden. This was in part because the city had not received the Prop 84 grant until late 2010; at that time work was still being done on the landscape.

Park Development Officer Anna Mendiola has been in charge of the project on behalf of Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine.

There will be more programs created on top of the youth programs moved from the Freeman center. More youth programs will be available and there are plans to begin new adult and senior services.

The Orizaba park location has belonged to the city since 1923. In 1983 it became an abandoned street development yard and was given its current name by students at Robert E. Lee Elementary School.

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