By ELAINE ALFARO
Since 2012, the City of La Mesa has been dreaming up what to do with an empty lot of land, previously a county station, located at Waite Drive.
After a series of community workshops in March and June, La Mesa Parks and Recreation, in coordination with Schmidt Design Group, are working to whittle down design options. According to Sue Richardson, director of community services, they are close to a finalized design concept.
Throughout the process, Richardson explained that community needs and feedback were at the heart of the designing and dreaming process.
“That’s how we formed the concept plan,” said Richardson. “We asked some questions like ‘What do you want the feel of this to be? Peaceful? Active? Urban? What kind of activities do you want?’ We took the results from that and molded it into the concept plans that we have.”
In the March meeting, residents had the opportunity to fill out a form and voice their ideas. Richardson explained that this feedback then informed the two design concepts created and presented in the June meeting located at Helix Charter High School. Finally, the community could attend an on-site tour where they could continue to share thoughts on the design.
Matt Bohan, retired chief of operations for the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation and a La Mesa resident, attended these meetings and said they were a positive impact on not only the planning process but the community as a whole.
“The meetings were a great opportunity for the residents, who the parks are being built for, to provide input as owners and users of the park about how they feel about the park and what they’d like to see there,” said Bohan. “It is probably the most critical process in the park design process — to meet with those residents and neighbors and ask, ‘What do you envision in this park? What are you interested in seeing here so we can represent the needs of the community?”
And according to Bohan and Richardson, the need for a park in the southwest corner of La Mesa is very real.
“Our ideal goal is to have a 15-minute walk from every household to a park,” said Richardson. “This part of La Mesa has no parks within that 15-minute walk. It still won’t meet our park deficiencies throughout the city, but it gets us a little bit closer.”
Parker Ross, community services commissioner, said that another need this park could fill is supporting the wide-ranging physical and mental health goals of people within La Mesa.
“This space has the ability to offer multiple different features that serve various demographics of the area, from young children to the elderly, making this new park a place that will be utilized by the entire community,” said Ross.
The elements Ross highlighted focus on innovative ways to benefit the community while promoting a sustainable natural environment. Some of these include nature-based play opportunities for children, a dog run, and native and drought-tolerant landscaping.
In addition to making an accessible atmosphere, the design also incorporates infrastructure to slow traffic, and cameras will be set up to deter behavior that is not meant to happen in the park.
According to Richardson, the consultant is now working on a single final concept that they plan on bringing back within the next month for community feedback.
Until then, community members can stay involved and subscribe to the city newsletter which will keep people informed on this project. For residents like Bohan, getting to be part of the planning process made all the difference while waiting in anticipation for the final plans.
“It’s very exciting to not only be a part of but also see a new park be envisioned and planned,” said Bohan. “Parks are such a wonderful amenity for the community. They offer something for the whole population.”