BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A historic park in southeast Bakersfield is set to see some big changes soon, including the demolition of a popular community center.
Residents have been visiting Martin Luther King, Jr. Park for decades, and that’s how long they’ve waited for renovations too.
“[I’ve been here] all my life,” said Dereck Allen Phillips. “I live in the neighborhood, born and raised.”
Larry Eugene Brown is also a longtime resident of the area.
“Long time, I’ve been around here for over forty some years,” said Brown.
Both residents shared their visions for how to better the southeast Bakersfield park.
“More drinking fountains for people who are thirsty, they need some water here of course,” said Phillips. “They definitely need something for the kids. They need to fix the bathrooms.”
However, Phillips isn’t the only resident with a complaint of the park’s current bathrooms. Brown also shared a concern.
“If you go in that bathroom right there it is one toilet,” said Brown. “There’s only one toilet in there, and that’s all the way to the back.”
For two years, the Bakersfield City Council has been re -imagining MLK Park. Now, action finally came during the council’s last meeting of October, with board members voting to approve contractors to start renovations and demolish the community center.
“The whole project, including the park and the building, is $85 million dollars,” said Andrae Gonzales, Ward 2 Council Member. “Currently, we have roughly $39 million dollars either committed or already earmarked within the city budget or from state funding.”
Plans call for a new pool and new and an improved community center. However, park goers say there’s history to be respected.
“That little empty building right there, that was the original Veteran’s Hall for all the men, mostly who were obviously African American, that was their spot,” said Phillips. “They need to keep that, regardless of how they’re going to revitalize this area.”
A press conference will be held on Thursday morning in the community center at the park starting at 10 a.m. Councilman Gonzales said the council will share the renovation plans and hear from visitors on what they want to see coming.