Who are the Friends of Campus Park?
A grass roots collective of Oxnard residents and supporters have been advocating for botanical garden uses at Campus Park since 2011. In 2013, those efforts resulted in the City Council turning down a more active, sports complex like development in favor of adopting a stance that Campus Park must include spaces for a more quiet and passive use in the form of botanical gardens and other more relaxed, natural types of settings.
In 2019, The Friends of Campus Park (FOCP) was formed by a core group of these local advocates, initially under the umbrella of the non-profit Oxnard Heritage Foundation. In 2021, the FOCP expects to transition into its own non-profit, 501c3 status, with a governing board with a mandate to continue its outreach and share their knowledge and expertise.
The mission of the FOCP is “to improve the quality of life of Oxnard’s diverse community by providing enjoyable and inspiring places through connections with people, nature, and by creating educational opportunities and environmental awareness”.
What is the History of Campus Park?
The 33 acre site of Campus Park was the longtime location of Oxnard High School. The school relocated to a new campus elsewhere in Oxnard in 1995. The City of Oxnard subsequently acquired this site with the intention of someday transforming it into park space and other public serving uses. Currently, only the main gymnasium building, a two-story classroom building, and some recreational paved areas remain. The rest of the campus was demolished, leaving only fallow open fields and a few select trees.
In 2016, a portion of the site, located in the south east corner, was formally improved as a fenced-in dog park, after years of informal use by dog owners. The balance of the open fields are closed to the public.
What is the status of Campus Park Today
In February of 2020, the State of California, under the Prop. 68 Parks Grant Program, awarded the City of Oxnard $8.5 million to renovate the site into an operating public park. During the prior year, as part of the application process, six community workshops were held to solicit the public’s input on what amenities and activities could be featured in the park if the city were to be successful in winning a grant. The resulting Phase 1 “wish list” of items include:
Performing arts amphitheater / multi-use pavilion
Bicycle pump track
Multi-use field / meadow
Pelota Mixteca court
Renovated basketball courts
Lighting and landscaping
New seasonal/periodic creek
Additionally, there will be storm water improvements and renovated parking.
These features will not fully “flesh out” all of the available Campus Park acreage. There will still be areas for future development. This is where the Friends of Campus Park see their most valuable ongoing involvement.
One other aspect that will impact the overall design and planning of the park is that the site will also be a location where recycled water from the city’s wastewater reclamation facility is pumped into our underground aquifers. This will be accomplished by several injection and monitoring wells, scattered in different locations. The largest of these consist of pumps that will need to be housed in permanent shelters to mask the noise they produce. The shelters will require access paths to allow for maintenance vehicles, and the structures themselves will be “openable” to allow for crane access from above in order to swap out parts of the equipment when necessary.
The challenge will be to seamlessly blend these structures into the park, and hopefully even find creative ways to incorporate them into some of the other public serving features of the park. Can the maintenance access roads also be part of the walking trails system? Can the shelter structures serve double duty as educational opportunities to teach about water reclamation and the natural processes that occur in our aquifers? Can these structures even be augmented to accommodate other park serving needs such as equipment storage, or even greenhouses? Can a creative water feature such as a lake or stream be a side benefit of the water reclamation functions happening here?
Additionally, other community-based organizations, such as the Police Activities League (PAL) have and will continue to enjoy a presence at Campus Park, notably through the use of the existing gym building and other features clustered closer to the western edge of the property.
The Friends of Campus Park are eager to play a role in the planning for these initial Phase 1 renovations and the other identified uses of the site as they advocate for future implementation of the botanical gardens and more nature based aspects that can be implemented in a self-sustaining, community based public / private arrangement.
What is the Friends of Campus Park's Involvement to date?
A proposed generic design for Campus Park, comprised primarily of sports fields, was ready for implementation in 2013 when community opposition convinced the City Council that many other users would not be adequately served if the acreage were to be devoted solely to youth and recreation league athletics. Other parks in Oxnard, notably College park, and the proposed future Sports Park, served these functions. What was lacking was a park that would provide opportunities for the quiet enjoyment of nature, educational opportunities, programming and other community enrichments.
This was the highest profile involvement to date by the people who would eventually become the Friends of Campus Park, but their efforts started two years earlier. What resulted was an early schematic plan for a botanical gardens type of park that would become the inspiration for future advocacy. Their public outreach took the form of a website, Facebook page, engagement at local events and festivals, neighborhood meetings and fundraising activities.
In 2019, the Friends of Campus Park played a significant role in assisting the city in organizing, publicizing, and conducting the six community workshops that were held for the Prop. 68 grant application. The FOCP involvement included designing and posting large banners, designing and distribution of flyers at downtown restaurants and cafés, posting specially produced videos and other information on social media, gathering sponsorship support from local businesses, providing volunteers to assist in publicizing and facilitating the workshops, including helping with interpretation assistance in Spanish and Indigenous languages.
In August of 2020, the FOCP participated in a kick-off meeting with the City Manager, Public Works Director, City Engineer and other city staff members. In that meeting, the FOCP made a presentation describing their proposal for a future public / private partnership for the ongoing development and maintenance of the botanical gardens and certain other parts of Campus Park. During that meeting, the City Manager suggested that the FOCP could also play a role in the evaluation of landscape architecture firms that had applied to provide design and engineering services for the Phase 1 implementation.
In September of 2020, two representatives of the FOCP joined three city staff members for the virtual interviews of the three short-listed design firms being evaluated to provide the aforementioned Phase 1 services. After the three interviews, the interview team held a subsequent virtual discussion and evaluation meeting. The team felt that MIG, Inc. be the preferred firm to be recommended for selection and negotiation, leading to that firm’s being awarded the contract to move forward with the Phase 1 work.
The Friends of Campus Park look forward to working with MIG, Inc. and continuing involvement with city staff to help set forth a pathway to the eventual botanical gardens and other public serving future amenities at Campus Park.
The Friends of Campus Park are finalizing their efforts to transition into a non-profit, 501c3 organization. This will entail forming a Governing Board, and adopting a business plan that establishes a mechanism to enter into a public / private partnership with the City of Oxnard for the future creation and self-sustaining operation of portions of Campus Park.
The FOCP advocates for the creation of a botanical gardens type of development for Campus Park, featuring spaces and experiences that are more natural in design and appearance. Wherever possible, the overall design of the park should emphasize traditional, natural features and motifs, rather than standard, utilitarian, “municipal works” types of stylings.
These portions of Campus Park should provide ample opportunity for community organizations, young people, schools, church groups, and individual residents to “take ownership” of parts of the park through volunteer efforts focused on fund raising, development, and ongoing care and maintenance of these amenities.
Other, more “active” spaces should cater to events, festivals, and gatherings, and should be designed to accommodate multiple uses. Also, the educational aspects and opportunities at Campus Park should have a heavy emphasis in every part of the current and future development.
The Friends of Campus Park intend to be an active and welcome participant in the Phase 1 planning of Campus Park, as well as the future development of the remaining spaces. FOCP is positioning themselves to be the officially adopted, non-profit organization that takes the lead in developing and maintaining the “gardens” oriented spaces at the park. FOCP will operate hand in hand with other groups that have a stake in Campus Park, such as PAL, and of course, the City of Oxnard to ensure that the all parts of the park coexist in an intelligently and creatively planned arrangement. The FOCP’s role is modeled after the public / private partnership that the city of Ventura utilizes with the non-profit organization that operates the Ventura Botanical Gardens.
The goal is to have a park that all residents of Oxnard can be proud of, can enjoy aspects of, and can be inspired by.
What are the Future Goals of the Friends of Campus Park?
Why is this important?
Oxnard is proud to have been awarded one of the coveted Prop. 68 grants. The funds will pay for a wonderful Phase 1 development, but there will still be so much to do in future phases.
Of course, immediate funding is not available to develop the “rest” of Campus Park. Nor is it likely to be any time in the near future using traditional funding arrangements.
The Friends of Campus Park propose a partnership that will result in organic, community based, self-funded and self-sustaining development over time.
Residents will welcome the opportunity to take a more active, direct role in the development and stewardship of these portions of Campus Park going forward.
What is needed now is that the Phase 1 planning provide for well thought out arrangements of spaces and uses and include future areas for infill improvement and development.