Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Park and Trail

Volunteer group in front of park sign at MLK Jr Park

Photo: MLK Day of Service; Hosted by Community Baptist Church of Santa Rosa with support from Santa Rosa Recreation & Parks

Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Park and Trail Renovation

Santa Rosa, with support and input from the community and partnering organizations, plans to implement an overall revitalization of the park and adjacent paved trail to create a safer and more enjoyable experience that better serves the current and future needs of the community. This process will begin with a community engagement process to gather input to update the park master plan in a way that is supported by residents. See below for the estimated project timeframe.

The park renovation is fully funded by the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development’s Infill Infrastructure Grant. The project must be completed by the grant deadline of June 2026.

Master Planning & Development Schedule

Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Trail    
Community Meeting #1 Site Analysis, Park History, Survey Early Spring 2024
Community Meeting #2 Draft Concept Plans, Survey Late Spring 2024
Community Meeting #3 Final Concept Plans Summer 2024
Draft Master Plan Reviewed Board of Community Services Late Summer 2024
Master Plan Public Hearing City Council Early Fall 2024
Design Development and Construction Drawings 30%, 60%, 90%, and 100% Plans, Specifications, Cost Estimates Fall 2024 - Spring 2025
Bidding and Construction   Summer 2025 - Summer 2026
Construction Complete Park re-opens to the public June 2026

Project Background

Created in 1887, Martin Luther King Jr. Park (MLK Jr. Park) is one of the oldest parks in Santa Rosa. Located in Southeast Santa Rosa, the 5.38-acre park is an important part of the South Park neighborhood as a place of civic activity, engagement, and community pride, as a venue for neighborhood gatherings, youth education and play, and organized sports activities. The park is adjacent to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and connects to Petaluma Hill Road via an existing quarter-mile pedestrian and bike path known as Newhall Trail.

MLK Jr. Park consists of basketball courts - one full court and two half-courts; a soccer field that can be utilized as two practice or youth fields or one full size field for league play; a restroom building; a playground and picnic areas; and standard park amenities including paved paths, benches, waste receptacles, and some lighting. There are two buildings and an enclosed playground on-site that are utilized by Community Action Partnership (CapSonoma) to operate a Head Start preschool and Early Head Start programs.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Park sees heavy use and the park amenities, including the basketball courts, picnic areas, play equipment, landscaping, parking lot, paved paths, signage, and site furnishings need replacement or significant renovation to bring the park up to good condition and in compliance with current building codes related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Newhall Trail was acquired by the city prior to 1887 and was originally intended as a public street. It was instead constructed as a paved path joining the park and Petaluma Hill Road with several access points to the adjacent neighborhood. Newhall Trail consists of a paved, asphalt trail, signage, limited lighting, trees, and two works of public art (murals) on adjacent buildings. At a minimum, the trail needs new paving, additional lighting, and a stronger connection with the park and more welcoming connection with Petaluma Hill Road.

Park History 

  • The South Park neighborhood is believed to be founded by John Richards. Mr. Richards was a former enslaved man who purchased his freedom and later moved to Santa Rosa. He was a successful local businessman who came to own over 100 acres in south Santa Rosa including the land that eventually became the South Park neighborhood. (Santa Rosa: A Nineteenth Century Town (1992) by Gaye LeBaron, Dee Blackman, Joann Mitchell, and Harvey Hansen)
  • The first parkland was set aside in 1887. The parkland was located at the center of the South Park neighborhood and was significantly smaller in size than the park is today. The park was named South Park after the neighborhood. 
  • The current park was deeded to the city in 1965. 
  • It was renamed to Rotary Park in 1968 due to the Rotary Club’s involvement in the development and maintenance of the park.
  • It was renamed again, in January 1986. The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee requested that Council rename the park as Martin Luther King Jr. Park to recognize Dr. King and to reclaim the park for the kids in the neighborhood.

Questions & More Information

For questions or more information, please contact Emily Ander, Assistant Parks Planner, at [email protected] or call the Parks main line at 707-543-3770.

RESOURCES

Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Park Master Plan (2004)
Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Park Master Plan (1973)