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Way Back When in Santa Barbara & Mesa Memories

"MESA MEMORIES" MONDAY

MESA MEMORIES MONDAY - Elings Park History
     The proverb "one man's trash is another man's treasure" could easily be applied to what is now Elings Park (pronounced EEL-ings). In 1942, this area became a "sanitary fill site." In other words, it was a dump. Longtime residents Gerry and Jim Turner recall that the city burned garbage here, and Mesa residents suffered on the days when the smelly smoke drifted over the area.
     Other people remember the park as the place where motorcycle biker guys used to ride, and others remember that somebody farmed for a while on the Jesuit property. This continued for more than 20 years until Jerry Harwin, the chairman of the Santa Barbara Recreational Commission, and other community leaders decided that a park would be a better neighbor than a garbage dump.
     Beginning with six tennis courts in 1972, the park grew in stages until it now calls itself, "the largest privately funded public park in America." The park opened as Las Positas Park in 1985. In 1994, the park purchased some 130 acres on the south side of the site from the Jesuit order called the Novitiate of Los Gatos. In 1999, Virgil Elings donated $1.5 million to the park, and in appreciation, the park was given its present name. The Elings family has since doubled that original sum. Harwin is remembered in the name of the road leading into the park.
     The City of Santa Barbara owns the tennis courts at 1002 Las Positas Road, but the rest of this public park is privately owned. Facilities here include a BMX course, baseball fields, soccer fields, hiking and biking trails, and paragliding. (Image: Betsy J. Green)

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