New park strives to build community in Elk Grove


Eman Salem

A new park called District56 opens in Elk Grove to the community. The District56 park includes an aquatic center, community center and a preserve.

District56 in Elk Grove encompasses an aquatic center, community center and a preserve.

Lana Yoshimura, community event center manager at District56, said the mission of District56 is to provide a gathering place for the community and for various private events such as weddings, conferences and birthday parties. Additionally, it is a hub for city-sponsored events and festivals.

“We also have a number of non-profit events that are coming here. The Running of the Elk is a half-marathon 10K and 5K that’ll be here in May. The Run for Hunger is a 5K that benefits the food bank of Elk Grove that’ll be here on July 4,” Yoshimura said.

The city purchased the land a long time ago and the planning for the space began in the 2000s. The economic crash of 2008 stalled the development of the sprawling campus. The vision for the space went through numerous iterations, with the city eventually landing on what they believed was missing in the Elk Grove region, Yoshimura said.

“We have plenty of soccer fields and that’s why I think the determination was made to go towards an aquatic center, right? And this is an Olympic sized aquatic center, a 50 meters pool, it gives you a different reach. It’s the only one in the region,” Yoshimura said. “We’ve gotten a lot of interest in terms of hosting different types of meets and events here. So it’s also an economic generator for the city because the more large meets you attract, the more hotel room stays you get, the more sales tax you generate.”

The aquatic center will host various swim meets in the summer. One of which will bring 17 leagues from across the West Coast, Yoshimura said.

“There are various amenities at District56, so the center is basically an event venue. We do rentals for weddings, parties, conferences and things like that,” Yoshimura said “It’s also home to the senior center of Elk Grove, which is its own non-profit and then we have three veteran services organizations that meet here at the veteran memorial hall.”

Lisa Vice, 23, lives in Folsom, but visits the park nearly every weekend as it’s her daughter’s favorite.

The avenue of the arts is a common area that is used for community festivals and markets. The aquatic center, which opened in 2019, has three pools, a 50 meter olympic pool, a 25 yard instructional pool and a recreational pool.

“The preserve is meant to be like an oasis in the middle of the city. There’s a fitness court there, a children’s playground, a pond in the middle of it, and then various picnic areas,” Yoshimura said. “There’s a meter looped trail that people are able to walk or jog on as well as the pistachio orchid which we preserved from the original farmstead.”

Sixty-three-year-old Patricia Gibson, a park visitor, said she likes walking her dog on the park trail.

“The Cosumnes River preserves you’re not allowed to bring dogs. You know, it’s nice to be able to walk in something more natural with your dog,” Gibson said.

The city was thoughtful in working to preserve the trees native to the land during construction, Yoshimura said. Instead of using chemicals to control insect population, D56 is relying on natural resources.

“We have mosquito fish in the pond to curtail some of the insect activity. There are also bat boxes and burrowing owl mounds that are around the campus that will also be predators to insects,” Yoshimura said.

Yoshimura said the city was also mindful of children of different ability levels.

“So there are things for kids who may have developmental disabilities in terms of tactile and musical equipment out there that they can play with. There is also a merry-go round that is wheelchair accessible,” Yoshimura said.

Yoshimura said the last phase of D56 is to eventually build a library and performing arts center.