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Recreation panel discusses skate park, Club’s play field, Monarch Garden, Riddle Field playground

By SARA HALL

The Recreation Committee had some popular items up for discussion this week, including renovations at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach that incorporates temporary ramps for a skate park. 

At the meeting on Monday (March 7), the committee also heard updates on the proposed monarch butterfly garden at Bluebird Park and the Riddle Field playground design and color scheme.

About 15 kids and 15 adults attended the meeting to speak about a skate park in Laguna Beach, a project that has gone back and forth in the city for many years. 

The temporary ramps aren’t the best, but it’s a step in the right direction and they’ll hopefully get more in the future, said one speaker during the Boys & Girls Club Dream Play Yard discussion.

Committee member Roger Kempler said he’s excited for the project, which is a foot in the door after several generations have been deprived. 

He reminded the crowd about the history of the efforts to get a skate park in Laguna Beach. 

The biggest challenge is finding the right location, which has prevented the skate park from becoming a reality in the past, several people agreed.

When committee member Nia Evans first came on the committee a couple of years ago, she was “super stoked” to work on the skate park project. It’s an exhaustive topic, she said. 

Previously, when the city was considering a skate park at Moulton Meadows Park in 2013, people advocating for the project (including pro skater Tony Hawk’s sister) were met with a lot of opposition locals, Claudia Redfern pointed out.

“We need to cross that path,” and get community support, she said. 

Redfern, who retired after 30 years on staff at Top of the World Elementary School and was recently appointed to the Recreation Committee, said she supports the project. 

“Children need to have this place,” she said. 

The Boys & Girls Club project is a good start, Redfern said, but it probably won’t meet the needs for older kids. 

This is a great start for the new members joining the committee, Evans noted, it’s a burst of energy to see so many people attend the meeting and care passionately about a project. 

The BGCLB play yard is cool but not going to cut it, Evans added. 

If they can get more historical data on what this committee has done on this effort over the past 10-15 years, and then get more community support to really push for the project.

“Keep chugging,” Evans said. 

It can be done, but it takes time, research and support from local residents. 

They’ll have more information at next month’s meeting, noted committee member Cathleen Greiner. 

Recreation panel discuss Dream Play Yard

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Rending courtesy of Design With Purpose/BGCLB

Rendering of the Boys & Girls Club of LB’s Dream Play Yard

Since 1952, the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach has been helping thousands of students in the LB and Saddleback Valley area. 

In contrast to businesses that downsized during the pandemic, the local club “gained unprecedented momentum with an increased demand for both programming and new hires,” BGCLB officials wrote in the Dream Play Yard presentation.

The proposed renovations for the Dream Play Yard enhanced outdoor space will increase attendance from the Laguna Beach community, expand on current offerings at the Canyon Branch, and create collaboration with local nonprofits focused on environmental and ocean stewardship, officials explained. 

The Dream Play Yard plan includes:

–Clearance and demolition of existing storage containers, re-allocation for storage systems.

–Redoing the hardscape and opening it up to offer more than 10,000 square feet of flat space for basketball, skating, bicycling, handball and other activities.

–Installation of a new turf area and new shade structure.

–A new greenhouse, raised gardens and butterfly gardens.

–An art wall with chalkboards of all sizes for creative expression and art therapy.

–Local artist installations with local history bronze wall and an Olympian mural featuring Club alumni.

–Replacing the existing aged play structure with a new option to reside in the back corner of the turf.

Dream Play Yard benefits kids’ physical, socio-emotional and academic well-being through play.

The updated play yard will address the skate park need by using portable ramps to convert the blacktop area. The turf area will have space for soccer, frisbee, frisbee golf, outdoor yoga and unstructured play. There will also be educational displays.

It also offers extra recreation space for the city and creates a community venue for pickleball, movie nights, lectures, outdoor sculpture shows, Chamber and city events. It can also serve as an efficient overflow parking space when needed during festivals.

The yard is expected to be completed later this year. 

The project is estimated to cost between $350,000-$400,000. The Club has been fundraising and gathering contributions from families, foundations, corporations and local and federal government grants.

Dream Play Yard naming opportunities include picnic tables, athletic courts, media/movie wall, shade installations, plants and environmental displays and more. As little as $1,000 will land a donor’s handprint on the “Lend-a-Hand” Wall and up to $200,000 will get the Maintainer-Premiere Naming Opportunity covering maintenance and sustainability for 20 years. About $80,000 will cover the skate park conversion, including ramps, hardscape components, supplies and lessons. 

As of mid-February, the club has raised more than $284,000.

Recreation panel discuss Bluebird Park

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Location of section A of the proposed monarch butterfly garden at Bluebird Park

Also during Monday’s meeting, the committee heard an update on the proposed monarch butterfly garden at Bluebird Park. 

Staff identified another area for a different “section B” of the garden after committee members raised concerns at the February meeting that the previously suggested location would be trampled by kids playing in the area and during events in the park.

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There were kids playing in that exact area when the Recreation staff visited the site, said Senior Recreation Supervisor Alexis Braun.

The previously suggested location for section B was an area located near the “back corner” of the eastern part of Bluebird Park.

The new site B is located on a slope near the entrance by Cress Street. 

The foundation has agreed to the new site, along with section A by the stairs, so the project will move forward into the next step, Braun explained.

Staff is also working on identifying possible locations in the canyon for additional gardens, if funding becomes available.

Committee members voted 5-0 on February 7 in favor of the special habitat approximately 500 square feet (in two sections) at Bluebird Park to support North America’s arguably most beloved butterfly.

A local nonprofit, Pollinator Protection Fund (PPF), was recently awarded a grant of approximately $5,200 by the Monarch Joint Venture (an organization that operates primarily on funds from the U.S. Forest Service) to create the garden in Bluebird Park.

PPF, based in Laguna Beach, brought the idea for a similar habitat at Heisler Park to the committee last summer. It was approved by the committee and City Council and work on the project recently completed.

PPF is now proposing planting native California milkweed in two sections of Bluebird Park to support the popular pollinators that migrate through the region.

Section A is proposed to be located in the southwest area of Bluebird Park on the slope to the north of the picnic tables and to the east of the stairway that goes up to Calliope Street. PPF proposes to add a significant number of plants in this area with minimal interference to the existing plants. An educational sign would be installed at the foot of the slope.

The garden will take about four months to plant and develop, while working with city staff. The PPF will be carrying out the majority of the planting and will work with city staff on obtaining and installing the signage. The design for the sign already exists (in Heisler Park). PPF anticipates completing the project by August.

Recreation panel discuss Riddle playground

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Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

A draft rendering of a new play structure proposed for Riddle Field

Also this week, committee members were presented with an updated color scheme to the proposed Riddle Field play structure.

The project manager returned with some additional colors, following the comments from the previous meeting. During the February meeting some committee members weren’t fans of the green and yellow and suggested using local school colors or the traditional Little League colors. 

On Monday, committee members were agreeable to the new red and blue color scheme.

The design still has the baseball cap and other baseball-related design elements, including a miniature baseball diamond on the ground, an oversized baseball bat anchored to the mat, and baseball cap designs as the roof of the structure.

It will be the same footprint of what’s currently there, Braun confirmed. 

The informational plaque was also mentioned again during the recent discussion. At previous meetings, committee members wanted a display or storyboard or signage noting the field’s historic baseball background.

A draft of the wording was read at the December 6 meeting, although final wording will be worked out down the road, the general idea will mention: Jack Norworth, best known for co-authoring the iconic anthem “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” who started the LB Little League in 1952 (oldest in Orange County) and lived in Laguna Beach in the 1940s and 1950s; longtime Laguna resident and civil leader, Arnold Hano, who wrote “A Day in the Bleachers,” which has been continuously in print since 1955 and gives readers a fan’s firsthand account of the opening game of the 1954 World Series, centered around Willie Mays’ famous catch and throw; Major League Baseball player Damon Berryhill, who played at Riddle Field; and the park’s history, including when it was dedicated in 1963 to Mayor Jesse Riddle.

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Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.

 

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