A Brief History of Elings Park
Lit Moon Theatre is excited about our upcoming performances at Elings Park of Shakespeare’s magical A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Artistic Director John Blondell is teaming up with Elings Park Executive Director Dean Noble to initiate an ongoing collaboration between Elings Park and Lit Moon Theatre (think “Shakespeare in the Park”).
While the company knows Elings Park well (lots of dog and little league connections), we weren’t that aware of its history so we looked into it…
The following excerpts are reprinted from a post by James Wapotch at Songs of the Wilderness
Located along Los Positas Road and Cliff Drive, Elings Park is the second largest park in Santa Barbara County after Cachuma Lake Recreation Area. The 230-acre park is less than 15 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara.
Elings is also the largest privately funded park in the United States. The land is leased from the city and managed and maintained through private donations and user fees.
While a lot of people may be more familiar with Elings Park because of its tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, and picnic areas, the park also has a fair amount of hiking trails.
Most of the trails are in the undeveloped southern portion of the park also known as Elings Park South. The network of trails lends itself well to hiking and mountain biking, and can be used to create a variety of loop routes that let you explore the park and the views it has to offer. Most of the trails are generally well-used and maintained.
The history of Elings Park dates back to 1965, when the city landfill at the site became full and was subsequently closed. Shortly afterwards, Jerry Harwin, chairman of the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Commission and other city officials began looking at how to convert the 97-acre site into a park for recreational use.
In 1977, the City Council approved the development of the site as a park, including the various proposed sports facilities. Several years later, the non-profit Las Positas Park Foundation was created and began fundraising to make the park a reality.
The park was officially opened in 1985, and named Los Positas Park. In 1991, it was renamed Las Positas Friendship Park.
In 1994, the park foundation agreed to purchase the adjoining 133 acres to the south from Society of Jesus, the Jesuit organization which owned the property. The land comprised what is now Elings Park South.
In 1999, Dr. Virgil Elings donated $1.5 million to complete the purchase and support park improvements. Elings was the co-founder of Goleta-based Digital Instruments. He had just recently taken up paragliding and was inspired to help the park purchase the land. His former wife, Betty Wells, later donated another $800,000. In recognition of the family’s support of the park, it was renamed Elings Park. The B.P. Moser Trust also donated $460,000 towards the purchase.
Today, the privately-funded park serves close to a quarter of a million visitors a year. Its recreational facilities include three baseball diamonds, two soccer fields, a BMX bike track, and six tennis courts. Godric Grove and several other areas can be rented for weddings. The park also has a program for off-leash dog use.
Through these various usage fees, along with grants and donations, the park foundation funds ongoing maintenance and improvement projects. In 2014, the park began charging an entrance fee on weekends to further support the park’s operating costs. Annual parking passes are also available.
For more information about Elings Park and the recreational opportunities it has to offer, or to reserve a picnic area, make a donation, or become a volunteer go to elingspark.org.