Located near the heart of downtown Sacramento, Southside Community Park offers visitors an array of recreational activities and social events. The Nisenan people lived in this area prior to the 1700s, and one of their largest towns, Sama, was located just south of the park. During that time the current lake was a large, marsh-like pond with villages and housing near the banks. The park is still one of the lowest lying areas within the central city limits. John Sutter established the area's first non-native settlement in 1839, and this was the precursor to the creation of the City of Sacramento. When the Gold Rush hit, thousands flocked to the Sacramento Valley to play their odds at striking it rich, and these changes brought new diseases that decimated the native populations.
With the construction of a new levee in the early 20th century the neighborhood started to form itself. It included many non-white citizens who were not allowed to live in other parts of the city. In 1906 the land was purchased by the city, which slowly began renovations to create the current park that is seen today. The pond was made deeper through dredging, and fill was used to raise the park to its current level. The city hired three landscapers to design the park, including John McClaren, who worked on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Notable additions to the park include an amphitheater, locally designed sculptures, a playground, a clubhouse, and a pool. The amphitheater also is the canvas for a beautiful mural painted by the Royal Chicano Air Force. A unique feature located near the children’s playground is a sculpture made by local artist Joe Scarpa. The vintage Curtiss Wright trailer has been turned into an alien spaceship and is equipped with neon lights and housed 12 feet off the ground. Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers march came to the park in 1966, and until the 1980s they annually held their Cinco De Mayo festivities there. Today the park is still home to occasional festivals, and it is a favorite downtown spot to get some exercise, enjoy nature, and play.