Preston Sparks holds a sign he made that rechristens the Idyllwild Dog Park as the Rick Barker Dog Park. Sparks also made a bench in Barker’s honor.
Photo courtesy Kathy Brown

Rick Barker, much-loved Idyllwild author and community volunteer, served on the Idyllwild Community Center board and was an advocate for the Idyllwild Dog Park, now under ICC management.

Preston Sparks, local actor, craftsman and community volunteer, recently installed a memorial bench he created to honor Barker, who died this year on Jan. 20. Sparks said that while he was crafting the bench, there were moments when he strongly felt Barker’s presence. “I got a chill, the hair was standing up on my neck,” said Sparks. “He was there.” Sparks carved the sign naming the park as a living memorial in Barker’s honor.

He also carved the bench near Higher Grounds honoring Pete “Pedro” Anderson. “I just want to make sure they’re not forgotten,” said Sparks. “Both were such gentle men.”

Barker and his dog Stavro were frequent visitors to the park. He volunteered his time for ICC as part of his commitment and connection to Idyllwild and its people.

In January 2016, Barker was interviewed prior to speaking as part of the ICC Speaker Series. He talked in the interview about the importance of connecting with others and finding common ground. “If I focus on the differences in another’s story, that can be distancing,” he said. “But if I choose to focus on what we share, that can promote a sense of connection.”

Barker shared his vision for a more hospitable world and evolved social structure in his writing and in his volunteer activities. “None of our global problems will be solved from the top down,” Barker said. “Meaningful social change can only happen from the bottom up so that people feel more connection and more commonality.”

For Sparks and others in our dog-centric community, the newly-named Rick Barker Dog Park will be a place to feel that connection and celebrate that commonality.