HISTORIC BELMAR PARK: The project is expected to be at Pico and 4th Street. Courtesy image.

The highly anticipated Historic Belmar Park is set to open to the public this month following a virtual grand opening celebration scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28.

Installing a field at the Civic Center was a topic of discussion throughout the 1990s before it was finally included in a 2005 Civic Center Specific Plan. In the decades since, city leaders have sought to make Santa Monica’s newest open space a place where residents can not only come for recreation but for historical reflection as well since the site was home to some of Santa Monica’s earliest African-American residents.

Plans for construction of a synthetic turf sports field near 4th and Pico were eventually drafted along with designs for a public art installation and historical panels, which will all be available for use by the public after this month’s virtual celebration.

Visitors will still be asked to wear masks and socially distance when the 3.5-acre multi-purpose sports field complex and outdoor exhibitions open, but city leaders and the projects’ creators believe there will still be plenty of opportunities for fun at Historic Belmar Park.

The park will feature the public art installation, “A Resurrection in Four Stanzas,” created by artist April Banks, who used the stories and dreams of Santa Monicans and the descendants who were displaced from the field site to craft the themes of the unique project.

The outdoor exhibition also features interpretive text panels researched and written by Alison R. Jefferson, who said she sought to illuminate the history of the Belmar neighborhood as well as the local businesses, places of worship and underrepresented stories of its community members.

“This timely initiative contributes to the national and global dialog to help open and inform contemporary life for understanding of those who came before us in Santa Monica’s African American community,” Jefferson said Thursday.

While she further discussed the initiative, which is the first Public History project done on this scale in Santa Monica, she added, “I am very happy to have been able to contribute to make the Belmar History + Art project a reality in the new Historic Belmar Park and in the conscience of Santa Monica community members and elsewhere.”

Local historian, activist, and Belmar History + Art community advisory committee member, Robbie Jones agreed that it’s encouraging to be a part of a project dedicated to sharing the history and memories of the local Black community that was overlooked for many years.

“This park and the dedicated artwork represent the displaced Santa Monica families,” Jones said, “and offer a starting point for the healing process of our Black community.”

Vice Chair of the Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission Maryanne LaGuardia said, “This is a joyous moment for the legions of community members who advocated for this great new facility for youth and adult recreation. This is many years in the making and a much-needed addition to our local network of parks, fields, and open space. When the pandemic is behind us, I look forward to seeing a fully activated Historic Belmar Park.”

In addition to the unveiling of Banks’ artwork and Jefferson’s historical panels, the virtual event will also include a Time Capsule that will be buried in the ground, where it will remain until June 19, 2070.

Residents can now register for the virtual grand opening celebration by visiting santamonica.gov/historicbelmarpark. City officials stated a recording of the virtual event will be available on the City’s YouTube channel for those who missed it.

Brennon@smdp.com