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A hilltop at the East Bay Municipal Utility District's Redwood Filter Plant property is photographed on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 in Castro Valley, Calif. The Hayward Area Recreation District is buying the site for $5,600,000. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

CASTRO VALLEY -- The park district is buying one of the last large parcels of land in this unincorporated community for about a third of what it would have cost a few years ago.

"I'm really excited; it's a great, great piece of property," said Dennis Waespi, a park district director.

The 24-acre hilltop site is owned by East Bay Municipal Utility District, which at one time planned to build a filter plant on it. The parcel was declared surplus about 10 years ago, and Hayward Area Recreation and Park District wanted to buy it then for $15.5 million. But that fell through when a 2006 bond measure lost by a few hundred votes. Since then, some developers bid on the parcel and then backed out, and EBMUD took the property off the market until last year, when the site was appraised at $5.6 million.

"The price had come down quite a bit, and we felt that was something we could work with and make an excellent park," Waespi said. "The views up there are spectacular."

The park district is borrowing $15 million to buy the site and also pay for some other projects.

"Our board of directors took a bold step in approving this financing plan," said John Gouveia, park district general manager. "Though it is a large sum and a huge obligation, the end result will be the acquisition of a very desirable parcel of land that will one day make a great park."

The site is bordered by Sydney Way, Carlton Avenue, Jennifer Drive and Stanton Avenue in northwest Castro Valley.


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Another $8 million of the $15 million will pay for renovation at San Lorenzo Community Park, commonly called the Duck Pond. The pond in the middle of the park will be taken out and a smaller one built in the southeast corner of the site.

"The new pond will be where the ball fields are, which is the lowest part of the park," Gouveia said. That area sometimes floods, so it made sense to move the pond there, he said. Work will start after the 2015 softball season ends, and will include a new play area.

Another $750,000 will be spent on planning renovation of Hayward's popular Kennedy Park and $250,000 to expand Fairmont Terrace in San Leandro from 1.7 acres to 3 acres. Some money help prepay the debt that financed the 1998 purchase of the Mission Hills of Hayward Golf Course.

Escrow on the Castro Valley parcel is expected to close by the end of this month, but the parcel in northwest Castro Valley will not be developed right away, Gouveia said. The district will first need to meet with residents and come up with a master plan for the park -- and a name.

"Right now, we're calling it the East Bay MUD site," he said.

-- Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.


A hilltop at the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Redwood Filter Plant property is photographed on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 in Castro Valley,
A hilltop at the East Bay Municipal Utility District's Redwood Filter Plant property is photographed on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 in Castro Valley, Calif. The Hayward Area Recreation District is buying the site for $5,600,000. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)