Admiral Kidd Park is a large, 13 acre park located in the Westside of Long Beach on Santa Fe Ave. right across from Cabrillo High School. It’s named after Kidd who was a commander on the U.S.S. Arizona Flagship of Battleship Division 1 who died in action during Pearl Harbor. As a Long Beach native, the Long Beach City Council decided that his name would serve just as well as a park name and the park came into fruition around the later 1950’s.
The park slowly grew to its present state first starting off with a playground, recreational center, baseball field, some bathrooms, and the Westside Neighborhood Facilities Center, with the land being previously used by the armed forces during World War 2. I mentioned in a previous blog post that Cabrillo High School used to be a naval station for the armed forces so it seems that the parkland right next to it was the original open recreational space for the troops. Glad to see they took advantage of the great California weather!
The architecture of the park is interesting because it gives off a very Spanish Mission-y sort of feel (I feel that way at least because of the bricks and color of the stones) and is complimented by the desert-like foliage. I’m not botanist but I most definitely feel like the shrubs in that picture up there make me feel like I’m somewhere dry! Nevertheless, the park is full of vast open fields of grass and now has a large space for soccer/futbol, basketball courts and baseball fields. Even then, there is still enough space for anyone to have a picnic or just kick it!
Along with providing the local Westside community with a place to exercise and enjoy their outdoor activities, AK Park also serves as a place for the community to host events that help foster and facilitate community growth, support and development. When I used to attend Cabrillo, there used to be a farmer’s market every Sunday and the event always had a great turnout; there would be live music, fresh produce, and families just hanging out with their kids. Along with that, every year the park hosts the Long Beach Unity Festival which helps celebrate and showcase some local talent in conjunction with informing the local community about some upcoming changes within the area and the community. My high school band actually performed at the event once and we had a rad time!
Like Los Angeles, AK Park is an imagined space; it was first a large lump of open land that had infinite potential and was ultimately utilized for the betterment of a community. But even with the positive intention that was laid alongside the foundation of the park, the space can still nevertheless be re-imagined in other ways; the park has faced some problems with local gangs (i.e. the Longos), shootings, vandalism, and everything else that goes with high-school youth delinquent hooliganism. I was once almost given a ticket by a police officer for simply standing, and the officer’s rationale was that gang members would just post up at the park and do nothing but stand in order to “claim their property,” so in order to differentiate ourselves from the gang members, park goers had to either be sitting or doing something while standing. There’s a litany of things wrong with that rationale (which I won’t go into detail), but it helps prove my point that AK Park is an imagined space that can (and has) been re-imagined. With that, I hope it doesn’t deter anyone from checking out the park; it is relatively safe and has a strong, but not overbearing police presence (you’ll basically feel sketched out if you’re doing something sketchy). At the end of the day, this space is home to the community and imagination, both thugs and LARPers alike.