New city parks

GILROY
– Two of three long-awaited community parks in the northwest
part of the city may get a sign-off by the City Council
tonight.
GILROY – Two of three long-awaited community parks in the northwest part of the city may get a sign-off by the City Council tonight.

Council is slated to review draft master plan maps tonight for the roughly two-acre Los Arroyos Park, at Hirisaki Avenue and Moro Drive near Mt. Madonna High School, and the roughly three-acre Carriage Hills Park, located at Valley Oak Court and Cresthill Way.

“I’m glad to see we’ve reached this point,” said Councilman Craig Gartman, who has pushed for construction of the new parks since he ran for City Council last winter. “I want to make sure we stay focused and move forward on neighborhood parks.”

Gartman said he thinks the parks should have been constructed years ago when housing was going up in surrounding subdivisions and residents were paying the impact fees that will fund park construction. However, this week he said he’s glad at least two of the parks are coming to Council, but the city needs to stay vigilant in moving forward.

“We do have the money in the budget to build these. Even though we’re watching our pennies, these are things that are long overdue to take care of neighbors,” he said.

If Council approves the draft master plan maps, city parks officials will be able to prepare construction documents and start the bidding process. Work could begin this spring and be completed by early 2004.

“These will be excellent additions to our system,” said Carla Ruigh, operations services manager in the city’s Community Services Department.

The Los Arroyos Park will be built on land donated to the city by South County Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing developer that is constructing a child-care center adjacent to the new green space.

The design forwarded to Council includes a large turf area and a picnic area surrounding a large, centralized play area for children. The play area features structures such as a swing set, teeter-totter, super-scoop and netting play structure. Another play area for tots contains a play structure, swings and spring toys and a water mister.

“It will be focused on younger folks,” Ruigh said. “There are a lot of play features there, and it’s closely centered in the middle of a neighborhood where we expect lots of families and kids there.”

Other features include two basketball courts, both fitted with special rims that are lower than a standard court’s and that fold down in case someone attempts a “slam dunk” maneuver. The play equipment is set in the center of the park adjacent to a gazebo structure where parents can keep an eye on their young ones.

“Families and parents will be able to sit in the gazebo and have shade while their (kids) are out playing,” said Lee Steinmetz, a landscape architect who helped design the park.

The Carriage Hills park places emphasis on nature and open space in its design elements, officials said.

“What we were really trying to do is give it not so much of an urban character, but try to keep the hillside feeling and have it be more of an open space feel while still providing park facilities,” Steinmetz said.

A play area set to the side of the park includes children’s play structures such as a small climbing structure and a full-length basketball court with standard rims. Those features are pushed more to the side of the park to make room for a large, centerpiece turf area.

“It will be graded with fun playful little hills for kids to roll down,” Steinmetz said.

A trail also will surround the park.

Construction for Carriage Hills is estimated at roughly $700,000, with Los Arroyos ringing in at $795,000.

Both facilities are designed as so-called “neighborhood parks” in the city’s overall parks structure and reflect a desire to provide services close-to-home for nearby residents, officials said. The idea is to have active recreational facilities but not ‘destination’ facilities that people from the whole city would be coming to.

“The idea is to get a balance of recreational uses without being so intensive that it attracts the whole community,” Steinmetz said.

Each park plan was the result of a design process that included three community meetings. Steinmetz’ Monterey-based landscape architectural firm Bellinger, Foster and Steinmetz developed three alternative design concepts that were presented for feedback and refined into a single “preferred” design.

“You can’t always make everybody 100-percent happy, but we strived to accommodate and meet the needs of as many people as possible,” Ruigh said.

Planning for the larger eight-acre Sunrise Park in the Northwest Quad is still under way. Officials expect the master plan process for that park to be complete by next spring.

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