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The city is considering the future of the park, which just a few years ago was known for widespread loitering and drug use
The City of Santa Barbara is looking to decide the future of Vera Cruz Park, a small lot that historically had been a home for loitering and drug use.
Members of the Parks & Recreation Department held a meeting Wednesday afternoon designed to talk about the request for proposals the city issued for any prospective bidders. As of Wednesday, the only bid submitted was from the Santa Barbara Trapeze Co., a business that has leased the spot on a temporary basis since May 2021.
The company has set up two trapezes in the park, and people spend most of the day flipping and flopping in the air with the help of trained professionals. The program has been a success so far.
Company co-owner Shane Weaver, a strapping man with a red goatee, is from Australia.
“We feel blessed and privileged to be able to be part of the downtown Santa Barbara community,” Weaver said. “We are delighted we get to be the cool thing that they check out. If they want to run away to the circus or try out circus arts, we are here to provide that for them.”
It's a dramatic change from three years ago, when a 4-year-old boy was pricked by a discarded hypodermic needle that he found on the park's play structure.
The child had to undergo a series of drug treatments to prevent HIV and hepatitis, and the incident sparked local outrage, earning the park the nickname “needle park.”
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The city has since removed the playground equipment and put up a fence around most of the park.
Santa Barbara Trapeze, once housed at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, partnered with the city for the spot on a temporary basis. The lease ran out in December, but the city extended it through Janaury.
Santa Barbara Trapeze pays the city 10% of its monthly gross revenue, and it assists with park maintenance.
Recreation Manager Rich Hanna said he envisions a 60/40 split of the park at 130 E. Cota St. between structured activity and passive use. 
“What we are ultimately trying to do through this process is find a balance between structured recreation programming that brings people in throughout the entire year,” Hanna said. “Also a part of this process is to segue a portion of the park that would allow the average passive park person to come in and run their dog, or play Frisbee, or drop in. As long as they are not engaging in misuse or illegal behavior, they will be able to use the park as intended.”
Hanna said leasing part of the park is not unlike what it does on East Beach with its restaurant rental concessions.
The RFP process will close at the end of next week. At that time, Hanna will go through the proposals and select the vendor. The new contract will last for four years.
Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
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