Dec. 8—Jose Mireles, board president of the Comité Progreso de Lamont, nearly cried tears of joy when he heard Lamont Park had been approved for a multimillion-dollar renovation. Margie Madera, the team coordinator for the Lamont Boys & Girls Club, almost choked on her lunch when she read the news.
Although viewed as a long shot by residents of the unincorporated community, Kern County announced Wednesday Lamont Park had been selected as the recipient of a $6.5 million state grant that will transform the park from the ground up. Community advocates hope the renovation will bring families back to the park and revitalize the area.
"For a long time, this park has been forgotten," said Timoteo Prado, community outreach coordinator for Comité Progreso de Lamont. "The county both knows it and is trying to find funds to repair it — and make it more of what a 21st century park should look like, instead of a park that looks like it was built in the 1950s."
With few amenities outside a little-used baseball field and a swimming pool operated by Bear Mountain Recreation, Lamont Park has fallen into neglect. Before applying for the grant, the county sought input from Lamont residents on what they wanted to see in the new park in an effort to bring residents back to the public space.
Children with the Boys & Girls Club, which is across the street from the park, contributed several ideas, including a skate park, which made it into the final design.
"They're going to be so excited," Madera said. "I had one student who said, 'I want to come back in 20 years and tell my kids, I was part of this, I helped bring this to my community.' I think it's one of the coolest things that I could hear from them."
In addition to the state park, the renovations will include a soccer field, splash pad, outdoor pavilion, tennis court, indoor recreation center, play structures and exercise equipment along with the existing basketball courts, which will be improved. LED lights will be used throughout the park to promote safety and extend activity time.
"Lamont Park will be completely renovated and will rival the very best parks found anywhere in the State of California," Supervisor David Couch, who represents the area, said in a news release. "I want to thank the community of Lamont for providing direct input into the design, and our County parks team for the hard work they put in to make this project a reality."
Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop called news of the "game-changing project" among the best he had ever received in his position.
"It demonstrates what ... local government and the community can accomplish when we think big and work together," he said in the release.
The state is fully funding the project using funding from Proposition 68, a $4.1 billion bond measure approved by Californians in 2018 for park and water infrastructure projects throughout the state.
According to a letter sent by the state to the county, the state Department of Parks and Recreation received 468 applications requesting $2.4 billion in funding during the latest grant cycle, leading to a highly competitive environment.
The grant puts Lamont in a situation that may be unfamiliar to many residents. The community has had to push hard at times to be noticed by county and state officials. Mireles couldn't recall a time when the city had ever been the target of such an investment.
It may even be a sign greater changes are in store.
"With the changes that are slowly happening, I think it's going to be an opportunity for folks to feel that this is a community and they are being looked after," Madera said. "Changes like this are going to help the community see that they are not being overlooked."
You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.