MARTINEZ -- After extensive discussion, the City Council has approved schematic design plans for long-anticipated Measure H park renovations at Susana Street, Mt. View and Waterfront parks.
City Engineer Tim Tucker presented the results of months of public meetings and review approval from the Parks, Recreation Marina and Cultural Commission and described the scope of work on each project, with the first phase of construction possibly starting this winter.
There was agreement that Susana Street Park, with an array of distinctive, mature trees, should reflect the city's history and particularly the Mexican element of it (named for Susana Martinez).
Councilwoman AnaMarie Avila Farias suggested the possibility of additional plaques or permanent wording about Susana Martinez, even though there are other references to the Martinez family elsewhere in the city.
Plans include the creation of meandering pathways for better safety and maintenance, removal of the old stone benches, a new ADA-accessible water fountain and the preservation of as many trees as possible. The rationale for removing the rock and mortar benches from the center of the park is to open it up visually, make it safer and provide additional seating.
Not everyone liked that idea and several people affectionately reminisced about childhood memories related to the rock benches that are reportedly about 85 years old.
Tucker suggested some of the stones could be saved and that more benches (in the shade if possible) will be added. With that, the council agreed to their removal.
Councilman Mike Menesini's objection to removal of the existing stone fountain was not opposed, with council members agreeing that it is part of the identity of the park.
Plans for upgrades at Mountain View Park include resurfacing basketball courts and making bathrooms ADA-accessible. Play areas will be made safer and include equipment and a climbing wall, and the tot play area will be "centralized" to the school-age play spaces so parents with children of different ages can supervise both.
Baseball seating repairs and new paths and picnic areas are planned, which will not diminish the open play area, according to Tucker.
Councilwoman Lara Delaney and others repeatedly emphasized the importance of shade for picnic tables at all of the park renovation sites.
The firm of Kluber and Associates is refining its designs for Susana Street and Mt. View parks according to council direction, and the final designs for all three park projects may be presented after the August break at the Sept. 3 council meeting.
Dillingham and Associates is working on the biggest project at Waterfront Park. The park is now segmented in two halves with picnic areas, large community events, bocce and playgrounds generally on the west side, and ball fields on the east. The skateboard park is on the north border.
Designers say the new plan will "fold the two halves together," improve the field orientation and better accommodate large events. Ancillary benefits may be improved circulation, more parking and signage.
The council approved the version which moves the soccer fields closer to Joe DiMaggio Drive and softball fields further from residential areas south of the railroad tracks.
That decision likely resulted from public comment at three prior public meetings where neighbors expressed concern about potential noise and light emanating from baseball and softball games.
Reed Dillingham, architect and designer for Waterfront Park, said he worked to improve the fields for softball, baseball and soccer to better accommodate large events and spectator seating. Specifically, the baseball field orientation is expected to be better for players.
The goal is to open the fields by July 2015, according to Tucker.
Other considerations at the park were restroom and concession stand remodeling, expansion of the event theater, parking improvements, lighting, picnic areas with more shade, modification of the park entrance, and a new park maintenance area.
The Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs has proposed establishing the Clippers baseball team in Martinez, in honor of Joe DiMaggio. Based on attendance at other team locations, those games could attract 500 to 700 fans for about 40 home games annually, and park improvements could help facilitate that.
There was serious consideration given to the site of the maintenance area, with possible relocation to slightly increase the distance to the center field baseball fence. Dillingham said he would continue to work within those council parameters.
Councilman Mark Ross favored a public comment suggestion to create a row of trees that would disguise the dredging ponds, but allow water and bridge views beyond the baseball fields. That may be incorporated into the final design.
Noting that PG&E will likely want to coordinate improvements with city park projects, Tucker said that the timing of work on Susana Street and Mt. View parks could be influenced by PG&E schedules.
Contact Dana Guzzetti at email@example.com or call 925-202-9292.