It would only cause confusion if Andy Grove donated an orchard
to a city, which then named it after him. And if Mrs. Fields
gave a baseball diamond, that could be bad, too. Thus, when
Ms. Alice Keck Park bequeathed to the city of
Santa Barbara an entire city block
for the purpose of creating "a rural park", well, she has only
herself to blame if nobody remembers her name correctly.
Despite that, Santa Barbara now has a very pleasant park. Taking
up the block between Santa Barbara, Arrellaga, Garden, and Micheltorena
Streets, the park is 4.6 acres of "country" a stone's throw
from the heart of downtown.
Ms. Park bought the property from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1975,
when the museum abandoned its plan to build an adjunct facility there. She
gave it to the city, along with an endowment for its maintenance, on condition
that it be kept a park in perpetuity, and that the the park be designed by an
architect from the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden. The park opened on
May 13, 1980.
Walking the crushed stone paths meandering throughout, you'll transition
from one environment to another, as the flora is grouped by the type of
environment they thrive in, ranging from boggy to arid.
The species vary from hardy scrub to big, flowering bushes, with palm and
other trees scattered throughout.
Overlooking the entire park from its central vantage point is a knoll
with an ancient tree spreading its limbs far in all directions, as well as
a large sundial built into the ground.
Near the Micheltorena edge is a lawn area very popular among friends, lovers,
old and young, for a nice lie-down in the sun, or a lunch break. Just about
any Saturday or Sunday, you'll see wedding parties strutting for photographers;
along with the Courthouse, the Park is the favorite spot to record wedding day
memories in the city, even if the ceremony takes place elsewhere.
Abutting that lawn
is the pond, filled with koi and turtles; near the Santa Barbara Street
side end of the pond is a small island, reachable via a 3- or 4-foot bridge,
with a palm tree and the most popular bench in the whole park. A short distance
around the edge of the pond is a small gazebo which juts out over the water.
The other side of the park (the Arrellaga Street side) has another, smaller
lawn. Between that lawn and the central knoll is a vine-covered horizontal
trellis — a very nice spot for couples to tie the knot.
The rest of the park is taken up by foliage, with paths throughout, and two
streams which (with a little help) flow to and from the pond.
I strongly urge visitors to Santa Barbara to join us locals in enjoying the
pleasant and soothing environment of the Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens. If you need directions, just ask a friendly native to point you to Alice Keck Park.