PLEASANT HILL -- Parents are unhappy that a play structure for older children was dropped from plans for the new Pleasant Oaks Park because the recreation district has run out of money.
The $3.6 million project includes five softball fields, a full-size soccer field, ADA-compliant pathways, new turf, new dugouts and backstops. The park renovation is the last of the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District's four bond projects.
A $106,000 play structure for preschool-age children will replace one the district removed to make way for the park improvements. But due to cost overruns for the other bond projects, the district can't afford an additional $160,000 for a play structure for school-age children, according to Bob Berggren, recreation district general manager. The 11.5-acre park was completed in 1964, but the playground was built in 2001.
"How can that possibly be with the bond money that you leave the playground for the kids to the very last part?" said Laura Fernandez, whose children played at Pleasant Oaks Park when they were younger.
Funds for the project come from the $28 million bond voters passed in 2009 to build new teen, senior and community centers, upgrade the fields at Pleasant Oaks Park and remodel restrooms at several parks.
"All four of those projects we've had to cut back on and didn't get everything that was part of the plan," Berggren said.
The district's money troubles began two years ago when the bids for the teen and senior centers came in $600,000 over budget. The board dropped some of the pricey design features from the two buildings, but the shortfall triggered a snowball effect leading to tight budgets for the new community center and the park. The district used $850,000 of its $1.7 million share of an East Bay Regional Park District bond for the teen and senior centers. The board members allocated the remaining $500,000 for the park and the community center, but there won't be enough left over to buy the additional playground equipment, according to Berggren.
Fernandez said the playground provides a safe, fun activity for children whose siblings play on Pleasant Hill Baseball Association teams or go to the park for soccer meets. Since last week, almost 700 people have signed the online petition Fernandez started on the Change.org website asking the recreation district to rebuild the playground.
The wording on the petition is somewhat misleading because it doesn't mention that the preschool-age play structure will be built. However, Fernandez does acknowledge that fact in a post attached to the petition.
Fernandez is urging residents to attend the Nov. 7 board meeting.
Board President Bob Glover said he wants to come up with a plan to buy the second play structure with fundraising, using district resources or some other means.
"The fact that we've got this group that is so energetic and so concerned about this ... hopefully there's a way to work together to get that other playground," Glover said.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.