Category Archives: Benicia Parks and Community Services Department

Ashton Lyle: In Benicia, city-wide events rekindle community connections even amidst digital division

But they won’t survive without your attendance and support

By Ashton Lyle, July 31, 2023

Portrait of Ashton Lyle
Ashton Lyle, BenIndy contributor.

Benicia’s annual 3rd of July parade is a treasured tradition for my family and many others in town. I remember fondly the many times I walked in the parade (beginning as a seven-year-old with the Benicia Stingrays), and later, the occasions I wandered main street festivities with friends. This year I again found myself strolling First Street, but for the first time, instead of watching the participants, I was concentrated on the sizable crowd gathered downtown and reveling in the beauty of Benicia’s community.

This is an increasingly rare opportunity for me, and not just because, like many others my age, I am increasingly separated from the town’s physical community. Alarmingly, this separation from one’s community is systemic, driven by a decline in community events like our cherished parade. The digital world has continued to encompass more of our lives and America’s towns have necessarily mirrored the expanding proportion of time we live and socialize online. The togetherness of community-wide events has begun to fade from contemporary life, and, in turn, our public interactions have naturally evolved to fit the controversy-focused digital medium they take place on.

Perhaps this explains how much of our relations with other Americans are characterized by discontent. As Americans have grown to become increasingly disconnected from the physicality of the humanity which surrounds us, we’ve grown increasingly polarized in our social and political worldviews. Add to this the public nature of digital communication, and it’s no surprise that acrimonious interactions have become a more visible part of daily life.

The injection of hostility into our relationships with our neighbors is an especially concerning development for the suburbs, where the nature of demarcated living only amplifies the human tendency to show elevated aggression towards strangers. Privacy and the near-total sanctity of one’s home, once reserved for the rural few, have become the standard of American life. Whereas multi-unit housing and city life, broadly constructed, requires constant concessions to the humanity of those around us, in the form of noises, smells, or even time (for example, spent waiting for a shared laundry machine to open), the suburban homeowner is the de-facto ruler of their private domain.

The shift towards understanding the ideal life as an increasingly individualized and private, separated from communal living, is now a cultural norm reflected in our public lives. While it forms a core tenant of the imagined “American Dream,” the perception of self-reliance is disconnected from the reality of living in a community, as each facet of suburban life, from its roads to its schools, is determined through collaborative community (i.e., political) processes. Even as our entertainment media and political discourse highlight independence and self-sufficiency as a value of the highest order, the reality of any number of anti-social tendencies in our society, from polarized discourse to indiscriminate violence, is indicative of the need to reconnect with those with whom we are building a shared future.

The need for community returns me to the 3rd of July parade. The parade, and events like it, are a beautiful reminder that the bitterness and alienation present in the online nature of contemporary life don’t need to transfer into real-life interactions. I’m heartened by the reminder that the discourse of Twitter, CNN, and even blockbuster films is still distinct from how Americans actually interact with each other and how Benicia residents can come together.

During such a controversial age, fostering a growing sense of community in Benicia is essential. I have written in previous columns about the material changes which could keep people in town, namely more housing and social opportunities to keep the existing community together while allowing for new, sustainable growth. But there is, of course, more to be done.

Community-wide events can only thrive with the broad support of residents and are therefore constantly under threat of disappearance. As the City of Benicia struggles to balance its budget, citizens now more than ever must manifest the necessity of city-wide events through their attendance. We can take our friends and families to one of the notable events hosted by the Parks and Recreation Department, for example, Movies Under the Stars. Shared community spaces, like the garden downtown, could be expanded to include new locations in other neighborhoods and the block parties I remember from years past, organized by good-hearted neighbors, can be resurrected. We can support the events of Benicia Main Street, such as the weekly Farmer’s Markets and the recent Waterfront Festival.

All these events work to bring the Benicia community into more frequent contact with each other, allaying the worst aspects of our increasingly digital existence. In a country increasingly defined by its discontent towards one another, pulling our community together, with space for difference and new voices, is a stand against the forces of division.


Call for public comments – time to advocate for Benicia Parks, Trails and Open Space

Benicia Parks, Trails, Open Space Master Plan update begins

Vallejo Times-Herald, April 12, 2021
(See also the City of Benicia press release of April 7.)

The City of Benicia has begun work to update the 1997 Parks, Trails, and Open Space Master Plan to guide the planning, maintenance, development, and rehabilitation of Benicia’s parks, trails, and open
space system.

Benicia residents are invited to join in the process, which will be led by the Parks & Community Services Department, as the city seeks feedback from all members of the community about the future of Benicia’s parks, trails, and open space system.

The City of Benicia Parks & Community Services Department manages 28 parks totaling approximately 700 acres, including the 577-acre Lake Herman Regional Park and the 50-acre Benicia Community Park, all of which is managed under a system Master Plan that was adopted in 1997. The updated master plan will serve as a long-range planning and asset management document that provides a framework for understanding the financial investments needed to maintain and improve the parks, trails, and open space assets Benicia owns. The plan will provide a better understanding of the current and future maintenance needs and a capital improvement program to guide reinvestment.

Mayor Steve Young encourages the community to get involved, stating, “It has been 24 years since Benicia reviewed its parks program. While we know our parks are loved by our community, it is time to look to a plan for improving them and sustaining them into the future. This review process needs the considered comments of our community. Please watch for opportunities to get involved.”

Benicia has hired a consultant team that includes RHA Landscape ArchitectsPlanners, PROS Consulting, WRT Planning + Design, and the ETC Institute.

Doug Grove, RHA President, said, “Benicia has such a wonderful collection of parks, trails, and open space it is clear why residents are so proud of their city. Our goal is to engage the community in the most inclusive and innovative manner possible and to let the community’s values and unmet needs drive the priorities for Benicia’s future.”

The consulting team has developed an ADA-accessible, crowdsourcing website to guide this project at This site will serve as the one-stop shop to provide all plan updates, list meeting dates, host online surveys and provide the community opportunities to continue sharing their feedback throughout the planning process.

Benicia will conduct two identical virtual public input meetings to gather feedback from residents. These meetings, which will be open to the public, seek to engage the Benicia community to obtain their input through live polling, Q&A, and public comments. The meetings will be held on Wednesday, April 28 and again on Thursday, April 29 from 6 to 7 p.m. Those who are unable to attend a virtual public meetings may view the recordings of the meetings at and share their feedback later.

Additionally, there will be follow up meetings later in the year to present the findings from the study and gather additional input from the community.

City of Benicia announces Community Services Phone Line – staff will make referrals for seniors during the COVID-19 emergency

City of Benicia Press Release, March 24, 2020

City Hall, 250 East L Street
Benicia, California 94510
Contact: Lorie Tinfow, City Manager

FOR MARCH 23, 2020
Community Services Phone Line Announced

Benicia, CA (March 24, 2020) — City Manager Lorie Tinfow announces the new Community Services phone line through the Parks and Community Services Department. Staff are available to answer questions and provide resources and referrals for calls received on the Community Services phone line, (707) 746- 4285, Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

For seniors, staff are available to make referrals to recognized local and Solano County non-profit organizations that have set up special services for seniors during the COVID-19 emergency.

Community member are encouraged to call (707) 746-4285 or email with questions. Staff will be standing by to make referrals to the appropriate city departments or organization.

In other Parks & Community Services news, the new Virtual Recreation Center is available at As a resource to stay healthy, happy and connected, the site has ideas and links for indoor and outdoor activities. The site also shares nutrition information and links for kids, seniors, and community assistance. If you have a great resource that should be included, email details to

In support of the Governor’s shelter-at-home order and to encourage social distancing, most Benicia Parks and Community Services facilities are closed. They include the bocce ball and tennis courts at Civic Center Park, the Skate Park, all playgrounds, all park restrooms except City Park and the First Street Pier, the James Lemos Swim Center, the Clock Tower, the Benicia Community Center, the Benicia Senior Center and the City Gym.

Addition closure and cancellation information is available at, along with up-to-date information on the City’s response to COVID-19.