Girsh Park Turns 25

By Leslie A Lund   |   May 21, 2024

Bill Terry was seven years old on May 23, 1999, when Girsh Park opened to the public for the first time. He played baseball with the Dos Pueblos Little League and had been waiting anxiously for the construction of the park to be complete so he could play ball again. It was with excitement that he attended the opening ceremony with his brother and his parents. He even wrote a thank you note to developer, Mark Linehan, who had built the park. Bill now has a family of his own and donates to the park, as does his brother Scott. They both feel grateful for the opportunities provided by the existence of Girsh Park.

In the south coast of Santa Barbara County, AYSO soccer teams had historically played their games at open fields owned by UCSB along El Colegio Road. Many families journeyed out to these fields on Saturdays with chairs and blankets in hand, season after season. But in 2000, UCSB began building graduate student housing in this location and AYSO had to find another location for over 200 youth soccer teams. Girsh Park came to the rescue and now 216 AYSO teams played their soccer games at Girsh Park. On any Saturday during AYSO season, there are hundreds of darling kids and families in Girsh Park, a sight that will bring a smile to anyone’s face!

It was 2005 and the annual Goleta Lemon Festival had grown so much in popularity that the historic location at Rancho La Patera could no longer accommodate the crowds. The Goleta Chamber of Commerce was desperate to find an accessible open space location to host this special community event. The City of Goleta didn’t own any parks large enough to accommodate the size of the popular Goleta Lemon Festival. Girsh Park was an obvious choice for a new location. Despite the wear and tear that the Lemon Festival has on the sports fields, The Foundation for Girsh Park agreed to make Girsh Park available for this important community event which continues to be held in the Park every Fall.

These anecdotes are just a small sampling of the stories that tell how important Girsh Park is and has been since it opened in 1999. Without Girsh Park, where would Dos Pueblos Little League play baseball, where would the hundreds of AYSO kids play soccer, and what would have happened to the Goleta Lemon Festival? But Girsh Park is not a City owned park, so its existence is due to the developer who built the park and the nonprofit foundation that continues to own and operate the park. 

The Foundation for Girsh Park is comprised of a small Board of Directors and one paid full-time staff member. Each and every year, this group of dedicated individuals ensure that the park is maintained in a manner that supports the various activities that occur in a safe and healthy environment. Each and every year, they raise the money needed to support the operational budget and keep users’ fees as low as possible. Each and every year, they try to respond to the needs of a growing community by improving the park as the demand for outdoor space continues to climb. Fortunately, each and every year, the City of Goleta provides some financial support in recognition of this important asset within the City. As the 25th birthday of Girsh Park approaches on May 23, 2024, it is worth celebrating that a 25-acre park owned and operated by a nonprofit foundation is thriving. This success can be attributed to the Board and staff of Foundation of Girsh Park and the City of Goleta, but also to the many members of the community who support the park with their donations. Girsh Park is truly a community park and as one former Goleta City Councilman once said, “We will need Girsh Park for the next 100 years!”.  

Leslie A Lund
Girsh Park Board Member


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