Tag Archives: Burbank Parks and Recreation

Rick’s Sports Corner: Mike Graceffo, A Local Staple

By Rick Assad

Like your favorite mailman, restaurant, coffee shop, doughnut shop, movie theater, book store or sports bar, Mike Graceffo has been a longtime fixture in Burbank.

Armed with an easy smile, a hearty handshake and an outgoing personality, Graceffo has been employed by the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department and coached youth sports for more than four decades.

How did this journey begin? “I actually got started coaching when I was a junior at Burroughs High,” Graceffo said. “I had just started working at Park and Rec and Gordie Martin, who at the time ran the Youth Sports Programs for Burbank Park and Rec, asked myself and a couple of other guys if we would coach a youth baseball team. I was playing on the Burroughs baseball team, so I thought it would be fun.”

Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan sits next to Mike Graceffo. (Photo courtesy Mike Graceffo)

Graceffo, who attended Los Angeles Valley College and Pierce College where he majored in Business and minored in Recreation, added: “So Craig Sherwood and I coached the team,” he said. “We were 17 and we were coaching 14 year olds. We had a blast and won the league.”

So like the mighty Mississippi River, which keeps rolling along, Graceffo, who made the Valley College baseball team, but didn’t get to play after his appendix burst on the operating table, has been at it ever since.

Does Graceffo, whose wife Julie has been a teacher in the Burbank Unified School District since 1992, ever think about what it would have been like to not coach or work for Park and Rec?

“If I didn’t work for Park and Rec, I’m not sure what I would be doing,” he explained. “Maybe I would have gone into classroom teaching and I always wanted to be a policeman. I started Park and Rec when I was 17 in 1975 and worked with them until January of 2016.”

When Graceffo, a lifelong New York Yankees fan along with being a Miami Dolphins, University of North Carolina, Los Angeles Angels and UCLA fan, rests his head on the pillow at night, he is content.

“The most satisfying thing about coaching and working for Park and Rec all those years is the fact that I feel I made a positive impact on children’s lives,” he pointed out. “It’s so satisfying when a kid you coached comes back and says, “those were some of the most fun times of my life.” Also to see these kids grow up to be fine young productive people in society.”

One of Mike Graceffo’s youth basketball teams. (Photo courtesy Mike Graceffo)

What does Graceffo, who was coaching the Burbank freshman baseball team until the games were halted because of the COVID-19 outbreak, want to impart to these young athletes?

“I hope that I’ve instilled in my players that it’s more important what you accomplish off the field than on it,” he said. “Also that you can achieve anything you want if you believe in yourself and work hard. Finally to never, ever give up or be afraid to fail.”

Everyone has someone they look up to, who inspire.

Who is that for Graceffo, who played catcher and center field at the high school?

“The late Russ Johnson, who was an athletic director and coach at St. Finbar, Dave Galarneau, who was the athletic director at Providence High, and of course John Wooden, were three people that influenced me with their values and how to treat people,” he said.

Having coached for so long, does Graceffo, who lives in Burbank, have a team or teams that stood out?

Mike Graceffo (front right) with a youth baseball team. (Photo courtesy Mike Graceffo)

“My favorite teams were my three frosh championship basketball teams at Burroughs and the four SCMAF (Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation) title teams and the three CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) Finbar title teams,” he said. “The reason is because all of those teams had a desire to work hard, be the best, play together and leave their egos at the door.”

Graceffo added: “Also my 2011-2012 frosh Burbank High basketball team that went 12-2 and won the Pacific League title,” he noted. “This team was loaded with talent and for the most part they all bought into the team-first concept and each accepted their role.”

How about a professional high-water mark? “The biggest highlight was working with Michael Jordan for nine years at his Flight School Basketball Camps,” Graceffo said.

What makes for a successful coach? “I feel to be a good coach you need to listen to your players, adapt to the talent and to your team needs, change with the times, make it fun, give your players the opportunity to excel and to achieve their goals, and be able to motivate and relate to your players,” Graceffo said. “You also have to be flexible.”

Most coaches have a philosophy. What is Graceffo’s? “Make it fun for my athletes, teach them good values and sportsmanship, teach them to be a good person on as well as off the field or court and to always give 110 percent and never give up or quit,” he said.

Any regrets? “I don’t think there is much I would have done differently,” Graceffo said. “I’ve been very blessed to have coached and worked in a profession that I have loved and still do.”

Burbank Begins Renovation of City Parks

In with the new and out with the old! During out first full week of 2018, Earthwalk Park, which is located at 1922 Grismer Street, finished it’s long renovation process and opened its gates to a new playground for kids to enjoy. The park features all-new equipment, meaning none of the old playground stands as it was. While the continuous construction during the renovation process made driving around the area a hassle, the new park stands as a beacon of fun for kids in the area.

For those of you wondering, “What about my park?”, you will be happy to hear that Earthwalk Park was the first of many to be renovated throughout the city of Burbank. However, it is important to note that the renovation process takes time and the city is renovating the parks one at a time. Work on Earthwalk Park began weeks ago, but crews worked at a good pace.

Below are the next parks undergoing renovation:

The money to renovate these parks was approved in a budget before discussions of a budget deficit arose.

Night Terrors Haunted Adventures

This year marks the 21st annual Haunted Adventure put together by The City of Burbank Parks and Recreations department.

The “Night Terrors” haunted adventure, which opened on Friday the 13th and had their second day on the 14th withhold one last night of adventures on Friday, October 20th from 7-9pm. Tickets are priced at five dollars and can be purchased at the door. With there being five separate scenes in the adventure, patrons can expect to spend 15-20 minutes inside the maze.  The Haunted Adventure is located at 1299 Lockheed View Dr. at Stough Park.

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian

Adrine Ovasapyan, The Recreation Coordinator with the City of Burbank Parks and Recreations department, was one of over a hundred city employees and volunteers who made the haunted house a possibility this year. “This is a volunteer-based program. We have over a hundred volunteers that help us throughout” said Ovasapyan. Cooper Savage, a sixth grader from Jordan Middle school who volunteered for the first time at the haunted adventure this year says his favorite part about the whole thing is “acting creepy.”  Rita Wells is also a first-time volunteer at the haunted adventure. Wells says that she thinks its “great that there are things now where the kids can come out and see each other’s costumes and have fun.” Jason Dyer from the City of Burbank Sports department has been volunteering with the haunted adventure for 8 years now. ” I love Halloween, I love working with such talented and inspiring people, and it’s just a lot of fun scenes, especially when new people come in and experience scaring people for the first time, and getting the community involved,” said Dyer.

Photo By: Edward Tovmassian


Stough Canyon Nature Center Recovers After La Tuna Fire


(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The Stough Canyon hiking trails, located near the Nature Center, suffered major losses to its vegetation and its sense of peace after the devastating La Tuna fire. Many avid hikers have had many questions regarding Burbank’s beloved hiking trails.


Now that the trails are open, Burbank’s Parks and Recreation team is ready to bounce back to begin work on returning the Nature Center and the Stough Canyon Hiking Trails back to normal. According to Marisa Garcia, Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation, the destructive fire came within thirty feet of the Nature Center. Much of the vegetation around the hiking trail is now gone.

“I was profoundly sad to see that my beloved Stough Canyon was so severely impacted by the fire,” said Kathy Sturdevant, an avid hiker of the Stough Canyon trails and California plant enthusiast. She went on to say that she’s “grateful that the nature center and the educational garden that surrounds it were spared, however, the images of the barren, scorched hillsides remain in my mind.  I felt such solace and peace in those hills, retreating there weekly to unwind from work.”

The fire has also left some of the foundation in a questionable state. While the trails are open right now, citizens should expect closures in the near future. Garcia elaborated on the future of the trails by revealing a closure is imminent for the purpose of maintenance. Furthermore, any time there is rain, the trails will be closed.

Photo By: Kelsie Hernandez

Garcia also stated that the Parks and Recreation department is building a committee of representatives from the department of Public Works and the Fire Department to discuss Stough Canyon recovery efforts, fire prevention, and preparation for rain. The City of Burbank does not have have a trails expert. Instead, to fill that void, the city is reaching out to other experts belonging to the Santa Monica Mountain Conservatory in the hopes of providing guidance on protocol on replanting procedures.

Garcia made note that anything replanted in the area will be native to our environment. Sturdevant, who has accumulated a wealth of knowledge in the subject, suggests “it will take some time for Stough to recover, but we need to be patient and let it recover on its own.  Our place is not to plant, but to allow it to regenerate itself, and perhaps help it along by removing the invasive species and as they come back as well and compete with the native plants.”

Greg Rubin, President and Founder of California’s Own Native Landscape Design, Inc., agrees with Sturdevant and suggests that it’s “better to devote the resources to controlling exotics and utilizing low impact erosion control. The worst scenario is to seed after fires – even if it is a “native” mix, inevitably the small percentage of exotic contaminants (like rye grass) will come to dominate these areas and actually contribute to worse erosion than if nothing had been done at all.”

Furthermore, Richard W. Hasley, Director of the California Chaparral Institute, states that “as long as fire is kept out of the area for at least 20-30 years, the system will recover ON ITS OWN without any need for human intervention. No plantings, no seeding, no tree planting, no mulching. Leave it alone. We’ve done enough damage through our clearance activities, development, and increased fire frequencies due to human-caused ignitions.”

Photo By: Kelsie Hernandez


As for what the public can do to help, always wear appropriate attire when visiting the trails, pick up any trash you see, don’t hike when it’s raining, don’t cross closure signs, let the city know when something along the trail is unstable, and never hike in the dark.

Tuttle Adult Center Hosts BBQ and Carnival for Senior Citizens

Photo By: Kelsie Hernandez

Last weekend, The City of Burbank’s Park and Recreation and the Burbank Nutrition Services sponsored a BBQ and Carnival event directed at our very own senior citizens. The event was attended by many, who were promptly treated to a variety activities including carnival games, raffles, Bingo, and Texas Hold’Em.

Attendees all wore smiles on their faces as they were treated to food, music, and ice cream. Sweets were in no shortage either. Both Cotton Candy and Snow Cones were available for anyone with a large sweet tooth.

Photo By: Kelsie Hernandez

On the event, a representative had this to say: “From this event, we come together with the community and give happiness to the seniors and the experience that they get from this event, along with meeting other people. And we’re keeping them mobile. Keeping them going, happy, and active, which is the important thing yet for our seniors.”


Park Land Giveaway Hurts Burbank Now…and in Future

It has been to long of a layoff, so Thoughts from the Bullpen is back!

They say if you ever want to make an investment in something, invest in land.  It’s not a stock or commodity, it does not disappear, it is something tangible. Land is infinite and will always be there.  In the eight square miles of Burbank there is only so much land…and so little of that is park land.

Our City Council is taking up the issue of park land in Burbank. This issue has come to the forefront because the Boys & Girls Club has outgrown their facilities and would like to build a $4 million structure in Larry Maxam Park (formerly known as Pacific Park).

According to the City of Burbank, the City currently provides three acres of open space for each 1,000 people with their goal to be five acres.

With new projects such as Talaria, which has already been approved and a new large scale housing project that has been discussed for the present Ikea site, resident numbers can only go up.

Open space and green grass is what makes up a park. Besides the amount of space a building would take up, there is also the immediate area around the building (walkways, fencing, etc.) that also take up room.

This issue is NOT about the Boys and Girls Club, this issue is about parkland in Burbank.

Yes, other areas in Burbank parks have been sliced up and developed. The Tennis Center in McCambridge, the Roller Hockey Ring in Foy Park to name a couple. There is also other development in parks such as a Theatre and Museum in Izay Park, community and senior centers, basketball, tennis and softball fields.  While those have taken up space and reduced green grass, they also provide a direct benefit to the community as far as physical fitness of both the mind and body are concerned. Any member of the community may use any of those facilities by getting the proper permit at anytime.

While the Boys and Girls Club is a nonprofit organization, they are designed to help children only which means they are excluding many to the facilities that is on public land.

Also, in this instance, the area they would like to use has other considerations.  To start, it is in a residential neighborhood. The park does not offer a lot of parking. There is usually just enough for the participants of the softball field which very little left over.

While their intentions are honorable, many use the Boys and Girls Club as an afternoon day care. In the late afternoon, many parents will be driving into the neighborhood to pick up their kids, creating an unwanted traffic and potential illegal parking situation.  You also have employee parking issues as well as company vans that would need parking.

Besides quality of life issues for people that live near the park, there is also the question of what happens when the next nonprofit wants their pie of the pie (I mean the park!), Are we going to start giving away pieces of Carson Park or Mountain View Park? Giving groups permanent usage of a public park is a bad idea.

Of course, you can always rent-a-park. If you would like Maxam Park, the City has a rate sheet for anything you can think of. (Maxam Park rental rates).

Our City Council is going to take up the procedure of how to give away park land to groups. They are trying to figure out if a super majority 4/5 vote should happen or if it should go out to voters. While the thought is nice, they have to realize that they (and us) are the custodians of the future. It is up to us to not only enjoy that open land but to protect it for our future generations.

It’s all about land, the public’s land.


City of Burbank/Dodger Night, MVP Summer Basketball Camp and Much More Coming Up

Burbank Parks and Recreation has several upcoming events this summer for teenagers as well as families. From skateboarding to basketball camp to attending a Dodger game, you can’t go wrong! Here they are so you may enjoy your summer vacation to the fullest!

Be sure to scroll down to see each flyer:

City of Burbank Dodger Night

MVP Summer Camp

Burbank Park and Rec

Burbank Saints Win SCMAF Consolation Championship

Burbank Saints (Photos courtesy of Steve Hubbell)

Burbank Saints (Photos courtesy of Steven Hubbell)

The Burbank Saints were crowned the “C” Division Consolation Champions of the 2014 SCMAF (Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation) Championships.  The tournament was held at Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo on December 6 and 7.

The Saints are coached by Steven Hubbell, Chris Hernandez and George Robinson.  The Saints dominated the Burbank League with a 15-0-1 record and then advanced to the regional SCMAF tournament in Azusa where they came in 3rd with a 2-1 record.

Two weeks later at the SCMAF Championships, the Saints faced Blythe in the first round and lost, 26-16.  The Saints then beat up on Saddleback (35-0), Cerritos (37-12), and Oxnard (18-8) to become Consolation Champs.

The team is composed of Santiago Hernandez, Isaac Newman, Marcus Manahan, Collis Lurie, Tyler Bowne, Noah Crues, AJ Vargas, Landen O’Brien, Dylan Robinson, Ryan Hernandez, and Ethan Hubbell.

Congratulations to our Burbank Saints!