Hart Memorial Park
Hart Memorial Park, dedicated in 1929, is considered one of the oldest recreational parks in Kern County. It was first named Kern River Park, but it was renamed in 1947 to honor Kern County Supervisor John O. Hart, one of the main advocates of the park's creation. Initial development of the park was supported through community donations and volunteer labor, but the help of Works Progress Administration funds during the years of the Great Depression allowed the park to reach completion in 1936. Today, the park covers 370 acres and contains two lakes and three canals. Located along the Kern River, the park is used daily for hiking, walking, photography, and picnics.
Backstory and Context
Hart Memorial Park, originally known as Kern River Park, is a beautiful 370-acre public park located eight miles northeast of Bakersfield. The park had its start on November 7, 1921, when the County of Kern purchased land along the Kern River for $20,673, for the purpose of creating a recreational public park. In the first few years, community groups donated time and money to the park's development, as the county did not allocate funds for the park. It wasn't until May 5, 1929, that enough work had been completed for the park to be officially opened to the public. That same year, the county brought in landscape architect Howard K. Gilkey to help design the park's features. Over the years, the park featured a plunge pool, bathhouses, a zoo, a small-gauge railway, and a water wheel, all of which are no longer in use. In 1947 the park was renamed for John Oliver Hart, the Kern County Supervisor and chair of the park committee who had been vital to the park's creation. Among some of John O. Hart’s projects to create this park, he and his hired horticulturist, Charles N. Potter, also created a tree planting program for the park.
Hart Memorial Park has flourished and continues to provide the public with many opportunities for outdoor activities, including fishing, family picnics, and hiking. The park also provides a home for kit foxes, raccoons, beavers, ducks, and many more. The park also has a site best known as the “peacock house,” because of the peacocks that live in the area surrounding the building, but it was originally named the Service Building for park rangers. This building was constructed in 1939 with funds from the New Deal's Works Progress Administration, also known as the WPA.
Although the park had several grand openings, one of the most important openings took place on April 22, 1928, when the park had dirt roads. This opening was important because weeks later, the roads were oiled by the county, creating the Hart Park we know today.
- Gia, Gilbert P. "100 Years at the Park, a History of Hart Park, 1890-1990." Historic Bakersfield and Kern County. https://web.archive.org/web/20170125202129/http://www.gilbertgia.com/hist_articles/community/100_yrs_hart_%20park_v2_com.pdf. Accessed 8 Aug 2018.
- "Hart Park Adobe Structures - Bakersfield CA - Living New Deal." Living New Deal. https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/hart-park-adobe-house-bakersfield-ca/. Accessed 11 Oct. 2016.
- "Kern County Parks and Recreation: Hart Memorial Park." Kern County Parks and Recreation: Hart Memorial Park. http://www.co.kern.ca.us/parks/hart.asp. Accessed 10 Nov. 2016.