The Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine (LBPRM) oversees the operation and maintenance of all Long Beach public recreational facilities, including two oceanfront marinas, a commercial harbor, 162 parks, five golf courses, three swimming pools, a sailing center, a nature center, two historic ranchos, an art museum, a cemetery, classes and special events. A three - time recipient of the National Sporting Goods Foundation and National Recreation & Park Association's Gold Medal Award for Excellence in the field of parks management and recreation programming, the LBPRM makes outstanding recreational opportunities available to Long Beach all residents and visitors.
The Long Beach municipal parks system began in 1888 when the City established Pacific Park. In 1895 the Long Beach Improvement Society formed to promote parks and beaches as tourist destinations to boost the local economy. Its work succeeded wildly on July 4, 1902 when a public indoor pool filled with sea water opened to a crowd of 60,000 at a time when the City's population was 1,800.
Through the years, prominent Long Beach families such as the Bixbys, Carrolls and Houghtons donated land for public use, resulting in Alamitos, Rose, East Bluff, Carroll and Houghton parks. The 1921 discovery of oil on Signal Hill dramatically increased municipal revenues, allowing the City to acquire additional recreational land through direct purchases. In 1924 Long Beach formed the Park and Highway Commission to manage the growing municipal park system. That year the City opened the 1,000 square foot Blair Field at Recreation Park and four years later completed construction on the Municipal Auditorium at Rainbow Pier. In 1926, a charter amendment created a nine-member Recreation Commission to oversee the City's parks and recreation facilities.
During the 1930s Federal Works Progress Administration supported the development of recreational facilities throughout Long Beach. Projects included the construction of Auditorium Park on the beach at American Avenue, the Woodland Terrace Theater at Recreation Park, a championship golf course at Recreation Park, high tide breakwaters at Alamitos Bay State Park, the creation of a municipal nursery, comfort stations, tennis courts, preparations for the 10th Olympiad and club house renovations.
When the Long Beach earthquake hit on March 10, 1933, the Recreation Commission provided refugee camps and entertainment for quake victims. The Salvation Army used Lincoln Park as a base from which to serve more than 5,000 meals a day and Long Beach City College taught classes for over a year in tents erected in Recreation Park. During World War II, the City curtailed recreational activities as part of the war effort. Naval operations at Brighton Beach and anti-aircraft weapons installations at Bluff Park closed those facilities to civilians, and an Army encampment restricted a large portion of Recreation Park.
Postwar expansion saw the construction of new tennis courts and recreation facilities, the creation of Scherer, Bixby Knolls and Whaley parks, and the five-year land purchasing effort that created El Dorado Park.
In 1954 Long Beach completed its master plan for parks, shoreline and city beautification and passed a charter amendment calling for parks and recreation improvements. A $4.9 million allocation in 1956 led to construction of three recreation buildings and renovations to Blair Baseball Field, increasing its seating to 3,238.
Through the next several decades Blair Field saw use by the Chicago Cubs for spring training, the Los Angeles Rams as a practice field, and as the home field for California State University at Long Beach, 49ers baseball team. Fund cutbacks during the 1980s caused by Proposition 13 and the economic downturn of the early 1990s forced LBPRM to curtail programs. As the economy boomed in the late 1990s, LBPRM expanded programs to provide the widest array of recreational options available in any Southern California city.
Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine maintains the largest municipally operated marina in the world, managing over 3,100 boat slips, three different marine dock areas, seven boat basins, parking for over 2,700 vehicles and 2,600 feet of guest boat docking.
The Alamitos Bay Marina, located in the heart of Naples and Belmont Shore, provides 1,800 slips that can accommodate vessels ranging from 18 to 124 feet. Begun with the dredging of marshland in 1949, the marina opened in the mid-1950s and has proven convenient to both Orange County and Los Angeles County boaters. It furnishes young and novice sailors with protected waters while affording experienced sailors rapid access to open water, prevailing winds and Catalina Island only 22 miles away. The area offers some of the best sailing winds in the world and hosts the Congressional Cup, the Trans Pac Race to Hawaii and North Sails Week. Accessible by three major freeways and ringed by million dollar homes, the public Alamitos Bay Marina sits amidst some of the most beautiful surroundings in Southern California.
Within Alamitos Bay, several facilities offer water sports opportunities appropriate to all interests and levels of expertise. The Leeway Sailing and Aquatics Center founded in 1929, provides one of the best municipal instructional sailing programs in the country, offering lessons in canoeing, sailing, kayaking, board sailing and wind surfing. The U.S. Sailing Center operated by Pacific Coast Sailing Foundation began with $50,000 from the the 1984 Olympics surplus. Opened in 1999, it runs programs for children with difficult backgrounds and adaptive programs for youths with disabilities, and develops the skills of sailors who want to compete up to Olympic and professional levels.
Water-skiers, rowers and those interested in boat racing find the LBPRM-maintained Marine Stadium in Alamitos bay a wonderful facility. Built for the 1932 Olympic rowing competition and site of the 1968 Olympic rowing trials, its amenities include a sand beach, restrooms, picnic areas, boat launch ramps and ample parking, and LBPRM makes the facility available for corporate or private rentals.
For the less athletically inclined seeking aquatic adventures, commercial vendors licensed by LBPRM offer romantic rides through the Naples canals in authentic Venetian gondolas. Passengers can sip wine and relax while gondoliers serenade them.
A second facility maintained by the Department is the Downtown Shoreline Marina, which opened in the early 1980s near the Long Beach redevelopment area. Its 1,800 slips are located within walking distance of the metropolitan heart of the city.
The newest water district managed by LBPRM, Rainbow Harbor features a wide range of entertainment opportunities accessible from Queensway Bay. In an area anchored by the Aquarium of the Pacific, vendors offer harbor cruises, water taxis, charter vessels and tours of tall ships intermingled with commercial fishing vessels. On the dock, Shoreline Village provides good restaurants, unique shops and nighttime festivities.
Parks, Recreation and Marine Services
Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine serves the City with recreational programs for preschoolers through the 60 + crowd. The Department maintains parks smaller than one-acre and as large as the 808-acre El Dorado Regional Park, manages sports facilities and produces festivals throughout the year. LBPRM offers quarterly classes in art, fitness, language, computer skills, dance, sailing, music and special interests including beginning wood carving, and advanced canine agility games.
LBPRM is dedicated to meeting the community's needs. It puts programs where children can get to them, running after-school and weekend activities on school playgrounds. After studying statistics about youths getting into trouble, LBPRM established teen centers at all parks near high schools to give teenagers a positive outlet for their energies. The Mobile Recreation program, begun in 1996, sets up temporary facilities in parking lots and neighborhood streets. For adults, the department runs sports leagues in volleyball, basketball and baseball.
The City owns five golf courses that see over 475,000rounds played each year, making it the busiest public golf course system in the nation. Each of the four 18-hole courses offers a restaurant, pro shop, driving range, and instruction. Programs include the Long Beach Junior Golf, a year-round program that teaches golf to enthusiasts ages 7 to 17, and the Long Beach Golf Festival that culminates with the Long Beach Open Golf Tournament at El Dorado Park Golf Course.
For those interested in tennis, LBPRM operates 65 tennis courts located throughout the City and provides classes for all ability levels. The Billie Jean King Tennis Center at Recreation Park and the El Dorado Park Tennis Center offer pro shops, equipment rentals and professional instruction.
Long Beach residents seeking a beautiful outdoor location for a wedding, picnic or special event can reserve a site at El Dorado Regional Park. The park also offers fishing lakes, playgrounds, a youth-group camping area, bike trails, an archery range built for the 1984 Olympic trials, a radio-controlled glider flying area, and concessions such as train rides, pony rides, hay rides, petting zoo and pedal boat rentals.
The 102.5-acre-acre El Dorado Nature Center, located within El Dorado Regional Park, gives visitors a chance to experience a genuine wildlife habitat and forget they're in the City. Long Beach built the area in 1969 by digging lakes, forming hills and planting vegetation in an old bean field that provided cover and food for wildlife. Now the center's two lakes, stream and two miles of trails winds through grassland and forested areas that are home to foxes, gophers, turtles and hawks. Naturalist-led tours and classes, school-break science programs. Birthday party programs, nocturnal walks, stargazing, National Audubon Society bird walks and special events like reptile and turtle shows bring city dwellers into the magic of nature. Classes in gardening, photography, ornithology, writing, art, composting and vermiposting empower and inspire individuals to make the world a greener place.
Among the unique facilities maintained by the LBPRM are two historic links to Long Beach's past, Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Los Alamitos. Once part of a Spanish land grant, the 27,000-acre Rancho Los Cerritos evolved from cattle ranch to sheep ranch to private home before becoming a City museum in 1955. The current 4.7-acre site, a national and state historic landmark, includes a two-story adobe built in 1844 and the California History Research Library. Rancho Los Alamitos, once home to the Bixby family, consists of a 7.5-acre site housing six agricultural buildings, a working blacksmith shop, an abode ranch house built circa 1800 and historic gardens. Both ranchos offer educational tours, special events and free admission.
Another piece of Long Beach history sustained by the LBPRM is the Long Beach Municipal Band, a local institution since 1909 that continues to present eight weeks of free outdoor evening concerts each summer for thousands of music lovers. In a time of satellite television and computer entertainment options, this highly respected professional ensemble provides a cultural tie to the City's past, when people presumed that leisurely summer evenings were meant to share live music in the park with family and friends.
Art lovers can enjoy the Long Beach Museum of Art, which overlooks the ocean and features a permanent collections, changing exhibitions of contemporary and video art, a sculpture garden, cafÃ© and Museum store.
Looking to the future, LBPRM has operates the concessions and leases in Queensway Bay, the area surrounding Rainbow Harbor. With plans for the development of theaters and retail stores, the are is fast becoming a perfect all-day destination.
Among its special events, LBPRM presents the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration, allowing Long Beach citizens to celebrate the Mexican victory in the 1862 Battle of the Pueblo while enjoying traditional Mexican foods, crafts, music and entertainment. Every august the International Sea Festival promotes a month-long series of aquatic events to focus attention on Long Beach's wonderful waterways, ocean and beaches. Activities include a novice swim meet, fishing rodeo, model boat regatta, sand sculpture contest, beach volleyball tournament, and spectator events like Chinese dragon boat races.
Since 1985, LBPRM has been assisted by Partners of Parks (POP), a nonprofit volunteer organization comprised of dedicated individuals who share their time, special talents and resources for the benefit of the community. POP provides supplemental funding and sponsorships, a scholarship program to needy youth and support for environmental, cultural, sports, adaptive, senior, youth and gang prevention programs. As the population of Long Beach grows, the Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine Department will continue to provide exciting diverse programs, expand its park lands and improve recreational facilities for the enjoyment of the entire city.