More trees, murals, dance and theater classes and an artisan/flea market may all soon be coming to Arcata’s Valley West neighborhood, thanks to $15,000 in American Rescue Act Plan (ARPA) funds allocated by the City for Valley West improvement. During tonight’s meeting, the Arcata City Council will consider approval of eight proposed projects to spend the funding on.
The projects, which focus on community engagement and beautification of Valley West, will be presented to the council by Comunidad Unidad del Norte de Arcata (CUNA) – a group formed through nonprofit Cooperation Humboldt to focus on improving the Valley West neighborhood. After conducting community outreach, CUNA composed a list of 12 project proposals for spending the $15,000. Valley West residents were then given the opportunity to vote, both in-person and online, ranking their top project choices. Out of 12 proposed projects, the eight with the highest votes were selected to present to council.
Here is the list and estimated cost for each project from the city staff report:
- Fruit Trees in Valley West Park—$750
- Outdoor Picnic Amenities at Hallen Basketball Court—$3,200
- Artisan market/flea market/tianguis—$1,950
- Teen meetups—$1,500
- Weekend dance classes—$400
- Weekend theater classes for children—$600
- Mural—Rebound Project (Basketball court mural on Hallen Drive)—$5,000
- The Mural Man—Park Project (5 murals)—$1,600
Completion of the eight projects, CUNA reports, are estimated to cost $15,400 to complete – $400 over the ARPA funds budget. But CUNA says that it plans to cover the remaining costs by either fundraising or allocating the cost from CUNA’s supply budget.
Assuming the council approves the list, the projects will be implemented by CUNA staff, volunteers and Arcata city staff. City staff would be in charge of installing the picnic tables and planting the fruit trees, which will be done with help from volunteers during a community work day, and CUNA and community volunteers would provide a two-year commitment to care for the trees.
The City and CUNA would partner to facilitate weekly teen meetups, which will offer Valley West teenagers an opportunity to participate in activities like bowling or beach trips. CUNA and the City would also work together to plan the tianguis (outdoor artisan/ flea market), selecting an appropriate setting and day and finding vendors to participate. According to CUNA’s report, the children’s weekend theater classes would be run by the Arcata Playhouse and the weekend dance classes (for teens and adults) would be facilitated by local dance studio Redwood Raks and dance teacher/ events planner Shoshanna.
The Mural Man Project, run by Benjamin Goulart, would add five colorful murals to the parks in Valley West, working with volunteer youths and teens to complete the pieces. Goulart has worked with youths on several other local mural projects, including a piece for the Eureka Street Art Festival and the mural at Arcata’s Rotary Park. According to the report, these murals would be painted on wood and hung on fences, so that they could be occasionally switched out for different pieces. Rebound – a recently formed DreamMaker project of the Ink People Center for the Arts – would be in charge of painting a mural on the Hallen basketball court, with CUNA helping select the artists that would contribute to the painting. For an example of the type of work Rebound does, you can check out this project the team completed on the Shay Park court.
CUNA’s report says that Valley West community members suggested several other useful improvement projects, such as adding additional garbage cans, fixing broken street lights and adding additional street lighting, adding bathrooms to the parks and more. These projects were not included in the list of proposals because they were either not feasible with the budget, or should fall under a different budget item. This $15,000 was specifically aimed at beautification and increasing community engagement in Valley West.
CUNA also says that only 74 residents voted on the proposals, a more modest turnout than the group was hoping for. But CUNA does feel that this was a successful pilot program and that it plans to continue implementing this type of participatory budgeting in the future. If these projects are completed swiftly, CUNA hopes it will generate community enthusiasm and will help bring in more people for the next round of voting, when CUNA will decide how to spend an additional $30,000 in ARPA money. The report does not say how soon the next vote will be, however.
In the meantime, if you have thoughts on these proposed Valley West projects, you’ll want to attend the Arcata City Council meeting tonight (Wednesday, April 6) at 6 p.m. either online or in person at Arcata City Hall – 736 F Street.
You can view the full agenda and directions on how to participate here.