City plans a new soccer field, baseball field, and outdoor fitness areas, and the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation is raising money for an accessible playground

Santa Barbara’s Dwight Murphy Field will soon undergo a $6 million renovation. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

By Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina. Joshua can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com and @JECMolina

August 23, 2021 | 3:33 p.m.

The dramatic and large-scale $6 million renovation of Dwight Murphy Field sailed through the Santa Barbara Planning Commission on Thursday.

The vote was 7-0 to approve a coastal development permit.

“This is a signature project for our city,” said Deborah Schwartz, chair of the city Planning Commission. “I think it will put us on the map in so many ways, including an all abilities playground.”

Schwartz said the project hit home personally.

“One of my brothers, who does not have full abilities, would have just loved, loved this playground,” Schwartz said, fighting back tears. “I look forward to this becoming a reality.”

The project calls for a regulation-size soccer field with synthetic turf, which would allow it to be used year-round. It also includes a youth baseball field, an outdoor fitness area, new sidewalks around the park, restrooms and new lighting. The renovation of the field is expected to cost about $3 million.

The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation is raising money to create the accessible playground and has currently raised $1 million.

If fundraising continues on track, the project could be completed by 2023.

Gwendolyn Strong was born with a disease called spinal muscular atrophy and her parents, Bill and Victoria Strong, started a foundation after she was born to reach out to other families of children with SMA and help fund research for a cure. Gwendolyn died at age 7.

One in every 40 people carry the gene, and the group has been working to raise awareness about prenatal genetic screening.

Changes are also coming to Ninos Drive between the field and the Santa Barbara Zoo. The road currently goes in two directions in the area, with parking, but would become a one-way street heading toward the beach, according to project plans.

This would allow onsite vehicular parking to increase from 128 spaces to 159 spaces, along with 30 bicycle spaces. Parking along the perimeter of the park would increase from 68 spaces to 93 spaces. About 37 trees would be removed, five relocated, and 33 would be protected. About 125 new trees would be planted.

Planning Commissioner Barrett Reed said he was grateful to have the opportunity to review the project.

“This is one of the most exciting parks in our city’s history,” Reed said. “”I completely support the project.”

The park was built in the 1920s. The playgrounds were built in the 2000s.