Santa Rosa, CA – May 21, 2018 – The public is invited to celebrate the opening and dedication of Andy’s Unity Park at 3399 Moorland Avenue in southwest Santa Rosa from 1 PM to 5 PM. Saturday, June 2, 2018. The afternoon will include a rich program of community speakers, music, food, children’s activities, dancers, drummers, art projects, yoga, skateboard demonstrations, and booths hosted by local organizations.
Located in an unincorporated residential area, the park fulfills residents’ longtime goal of creating a place for children to play and neighbors to gather. The park name evolved from the community’s desire to remember Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old youth fatally shot at the site by a sheriff’s deputy in 2013, and to celebrate the spirit of unity that rose during the park planning process.
The 4.4-acre park includes a large natural turf field, community garden, off-leash dog area, basketball court, skate spot, playground, picnic and gathering spaces, pathways, natural area, and a memorial garden featuring a bronze-relief likeness of Andy set within a tile mosaic highlighting his interests. The neighborhood determined the park’s name and design by participating in a series of workshops led by a steering committee of residents, park planners, and consultants.
“The creation of Andy's Unity Park was a uniquely collaborative project,” said Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker. “We started with a blank canvas, created a unified vision, and now we’re opening a park that represents the wishes and spirit of the community.”
A park has been envisioned for the Moorland area for decades. The nearest park is more than 2 miles away, far outside the standard half-mile service boundary for parks. A developer had proposed a small park for the area in the 1990s, but it was never built. Shortly after Andy's death, two vacant parcels at Moorland and West Robles avenues went into tax default, and the county acquired them for the park.
“We are so pleased to welcome Moorland residents to their new park,” said Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who represents the area. “The opening of Andy’s Unity Park provides a long-overdue resource for the neighborhood and is a direct result of efforts to engage and empower the community. Residents have enthusiastically embraced the design process and volunteer efforts that make this park and community garden truly their project.”
Regional Parks acquired the parkland in December of 2014, facilitated the community design process from 2015 to 2016, and managed construction from June 2017 to 2018. Major funding for the $3.7 million construction project came from various county funds, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District’s (Ag + Open Space) Matching Grant Program ($1.08 million) and the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s Housing-Related Parks Program ($483,475.)
“Ag and Open Space is proud to have helped make this park a reality,” said General Manager Bill Keene. “Andy's Unity Park is a place where residents can play, explore the outdoors, garden, and come together. It’s exactly the type of project our Matching Grant Program is intended to support.”
Other key partners include the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation and Sonoma County Department of Health Services as well as Kaiser Permanente, which provided a $75,000 grant for the community garden and recreation programming, and LandPaths, a local nonprofit that is developing the garden through a model similar to its work at Santa Rosa’s Bayer Park.
“We’re excited about all the healthy benefits Andy’s Unity Park brings to the Moorland neighborhood,” said Judy Coffey, RN, Kaiser Permanente senior vice president and area manager. “The community garden provides ongoing opportunity for residents to participate and interact with one another. It’s wonderful to have a beautiful new community space where families can gather and enjoy healthy activities year-round.”
The June 2 dedication begins with welcoming remarks at 1 PM. Speakers include Sonoma County officials, local clergy, members of the community and Andy's family. Activities will take place throughout the afternoon.
“After four years of advocacy for the park on Moorland Avenue, it has become a reality,” said Esther Lemus, a longtime resident and member of the Moorland Neighborhood Action Team. “This is a new beginning for the neighborhood and a beautiful way to honor the memory of Andy Lopez. We are very appreciative to all the people who had a role in making this possible.”