UCR Neighbors Want Community Center

Our collective voices are being heard in larger circles. 

10:55 PM PDT on Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

Residents in Riverside’s University neighborhood have long been asking for a community center of their own, and while there’s no money to build one now, the city will start looking at where and what to build.

City parks officials also will explore ways to expand recreational options in the meantime, such as giving residents more access to Islander Park and putting in a playground, city Parks Director Ralph Nuñez said.

The park, which includes a swimming pool and a grassy lot, is now fenced off and often closed. Nuñez said fences could be moved to create a small park that would be open more regularly.

But a full-scale community center is what residents living near the UC Riverside campus ultimately want, said Gurumantra Khalsa, who represents the area on the Riverside Neighborhood Partnership board.

The issue has been discussed in earnest since last summer when community leaders polled people who came to a “National Night Out” event. University-area residents noticed new centers opened recently in Orangecrest and La Sierra.

“It’s wanted and it’s needed, and residents kind of made that clear,” Khalsa said. “We’re an old neighborhood and we don’t have anything.”

The University area may have been passed over for a community center because its population is smaller than Orangecrest, for example, said Councilman Mike Gardner, whose Ward 1 includes part of the neighborhood. The University area overlaps wards 1 and 2, which have four community centers between them.

Gardner said there’s also a perception that residents have access to all UCR’s amenities, though that’s not the case for people who don’t attend school or work there.

Nuñez said possible sites for a community center include Islander Park, Highland Park and the undeveloped Mount Vernon park site, though each has limitations. Using about $10,000 saved on work at Bobby Bonds Park, this summer officials will begin evaluating the three sites and studying what features people want in a community center.

Khalsa said a lot could be done with existing recreation resources, but for now he’s just happy the city is looking at the issue.

“The fact that there’s actually a conversation going on is an extremely positive step,” he said.

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