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Wearing a heavy jacket and cap to ward off a morning chill, Veronica Oregon worked up a sweat this week while pumping her legs on outdoor exercise equipment at Bayer Neighborhood Park and Gardens, Santa Rosa’s newest park in the southwest community of Roseland.

Nearby, Oregon’s 14-year-old son and one of her nephews shot hoops on a basketball court while her two daughters, 6 and 11, frolicked on nature-themed playground structures.

Other features of the West Avenue park include a skate park, volleyball court and a nature discovery zone where kids can wander a path and pump water into a manmade creek.

“It’s a good thing for the neighborhood,” Oregon said, taking a break from her workout. “I love the exercise equipment.”

The 5.8-acre park, which opened four days before Christmas, fulfills pent-up demand in the Roseland community for a place to experience the outdoors, without necessarily having to climb into a car or onto a bus to get there.

Oregon, a medical assistant for Kaiser-Permanente, pointed out that her three kids can entertain themselves at the park while she works out. Her diabetic father also has started taking his evening strolls through the park to take advantage of the lights.

“It promotes health,” Oregon said of the park.

On Google maps, it is a relatively small green square surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of homes. But up close, the space feels expansive.

Visitors this week were greeted by the sound of a rooster. Two boys tooled around in a battery-operated car while their father captured the moment on video.

The park’s exercise area is unusual in that it features actual equipment, and not the more standard pull-up bars and benches. At the “pendulum, abs and dips station,” Oregon swung her legs back and forth on a raised platform to work her core muscles. Other equipment mimics stair climbing and cross-country skiing.

At the picnic area, sisters Azalea and Deanna Roman opened the door to an Eritrean Mogogo stove used for outdoor cooking. The park also features traditional Mexican and Chinese stoves.

“This is a place where the community can gather,” Azalea said.

The Roseland site mirrors a statewide effort to open more parks in urban areas. The Parks Forward Commission, for instance, identified urban parks as a top priority for overhauling California’s state parks system and connecting more people of diverse backgrounds to outdoor spaces.

“Some of these families have never been to the coast or seen an open space,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose district includes Roseland. “To be able to have it in their backyard is truly remarkable.”

The Bayer site includes a community garden operated by Landpaths, which partnered with Santa Rosa after the city acquired the property in 2007. The gardens and educational programs are aimed at helping neighborhood children — many of whom are low income — appreciate agriculture and healthy food.

The total cost to acquire land, design and construct the park will add up to $13.3 million, city officials said. The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and the state of California provided grants that helped with its purchase and development.

Strolling the park earlier this month, Santa Rosa’s deputy parks director Jen Santos said Bayer is “really a reflection of what the community wanted.”

Its harmonious urban and open space feel is accentuated by an amphitheater, community pavilion and picnic grounds, and by the gardens, budding fruit orchard and large lawn area.

An existing barn also has been preserved, and in the warmer months produce will be available from a farm stand. The park is open daily sunrise to sunset.

Oregon’s only complaint was the trash she found littering the park when she arrived this week for the family’s morning outing. She also pointed out a spot on a concrete bench that had been marred by graffiti, vandalism that had been painted over.

Oregon said she picked up the trash. “It’s my park, and I’m going to take care of it,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 707-521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

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