The Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District is trying a different approach — applying for grant money to improve three district parks. The funds will come from the California Proposition 68 grant and were discussed at the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce luncheon on May 21.

“We did a bond measure this past November. It wasn’t successful, but we learned a lot about what our district needs, what our parks need, what improvements need to be made and what is critical,” said Corey Torres, interim general manager of the park district.

He added, “Our parks have never qualified or never met the requirements to get this funding, but the State of California changed their metrics for California State Parks so now we can qualify.”

The district is inviting everyone — parents, sports participants, students, business owners, community members and leaders — to attend public workshops voicing what the public would like to see. West Park, Philip Marx Central Park and Sand Canyon have a total of eight meetings left for the months of June and July.

It is mandatory for the district to host these workshops in order to apply for anywhere from $200,000 up to $8.5 million. The need for people to attend the meetings is high, since in the past month the meetings have had very few people in attendance, said Torres.

“We have these meetings and we are going to go for free money and no one will come,” said Michelle Vance, ride director for the GranFondo.

As of now, the district will mainly focus on West Park and Philip Marx Central Park Proposition 68 applications, due to residents on Sand Canyon need more time to decide if they want a new park and trust needs to be established between the residents and the park district, said Vance.

The park district plans to expand its existing park amenities and renovate.

New bathrooms, tree maintenance, infrastructure to help with water runoff, a potential dog park, and more gym space were some projects mentioned by both Vance and Torres for either park. 

Both parks neighborhoods have different demographics allowing a certain amount of points to qualify for funding.

For the applications to be eligible, the community within the proximity of the project must meet one of two conditions: a ratio of three acres of park space per 1,000 residents or a median household income lower than $51,026, putting it in the category of a disadvantaged community.

West Park meets two conditions and Philip Marx Central Park only meets one.

The Proposition 68 Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program grant is a competitive grant for which communities across California may apply. Each project will be judged against other applications by a point system. More than $650 million is available from the grant with funds given at multiple rounds.

The third round of $254 million is up for grabs, with a deadline of Aug. 5, according to parks.ca.gov.