By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
Legacy pocket park project opens at June 29 celebration
On June 29, the Dominguez family — Jesus, Mary Lynn and daughter Amy — will join the city in celebrating the opening of The Lookout, a pocket park they designed to celebrate the city’s centennial.
The Lookout was born out of a design contest put on by the city to create something special for the corner of La Mesa Boulevard and Allison Avenue for the city’s centennial in 2012. The $165,000 project was almost entirely funded through donations raised during and after the centennial celebrations.
The goal of the design contest was to “hire an artist to fathom a project that would honor the city’s history, its past, present and future,” said Yvonne Garrett, assistant city manager and director of community service.
People from all over the world applied for the design contest, Garrett said, but it was the Dominguez design that the city found most appealing.
“We were the only home-towners so I think we had a bit of an advantage because we knew what it was like down here,” Mary Lynn said.
The winning design was a gazebo structure with tile mosaics that would tell the story of La Mesa’s history.
“We chose a gazebo because it is a typical, traditional center of the town kind of structure,” Mary Lynn said. “It seemed like a good place to start.”
Another feature in the pocket park is a small bronze sculpture of a snail that Jesus made.
“We proposed the snail because it is part of the history,” he said. “They discovered the Helix espersum here in the mid-1800s and we thought it would be cool to do a snail. At the presentation, the former Mayor Art Madrid asked ‘Why are you putting a snail in there?’ Not too many people know the history.”
La Mesa’s history is also represented in the intricate mosaics on the colorful gazebo. “The man who put in the tile, he was trained in Italy so he knows all the tricks and old ways of doing things,” Jesus said.
After consulting with La Mesa Historical Society president Jim Newland and reading his books on La Mesa, the artists picked out a few events from history to highlight, including La Mesa’s beginnings and early settlers; the city’s agricultural heritage; its historical place in the early film industry with the Flying A Studio; the accomplishments of local Colt, Pony and Little League Baseball teams that won championships; and the city’s traditional celebrations of Oktoberfest and the Flag Day parade.
Even the name of the project has historical significance.
“Our daughter thought of the name ‘The Lookout’ because La Mesa Boulevard used to be called Lookout Avenue,” Mary Lynn said. “So there is this idea of people being able to say, ‘Meet me at The Lookout.’”
Although the finished park has kept to mostly to the original design, there have been some changes. Park benches have replaced the initial concept of a concrete seat wall around the gazebo. Trees were also part of the design but were nixed after a water main was discovered running under the site.
Jim Simpson, owner of Time and Treasures on La Mesa Boulevard, along with the non-profit La Mesa Beautiful, donated an $8,400 Glenna model clock that was not part of the Dominguz’ design but now sits next to the snail.
Also, a tiled obelisk was added to have a place to put a plaque of donor names, which couldn’t be put on the gazebo because the names would be too low a height read, Mary Lynn said.
“The gazebo itself is six-sided with three open ends so it seemed a triangle [obelisk] kind of had a relationship to it,” she said. “But it was done because there had to be someplace to put names.”
The final piece to the park will be added on at the official opening of The Lookout on June 29 at 6 p.m. when the city will cut the ribbon and lower a time capsule beneath a stainless steel plaque at the center of the gazebo.
The location will be an easy landmark to help future historians find it, which was not the case with the last time capsule La Mesa put in the ground. During the 2012 centennial celebration, no one was able to find the one buried near City Hall in 1962. Garrett thinks that construction that enlarged the front of the building was the cause of the missing time capsule.
“We’re thinking that maybe nobody knew about it and it got built over because we looked everywhere,” she said.
The missing time capsule even came up during the design contest.
“So one of the guys that competed with us was kind of funny,” Jesus said. “He just designed a big arrow pointing into the ground.”
In 2062, when the time capsule beneath The Lookout is dug up, future La Mesans will delight in items from the centennial celebration, new and old photos of the city, a book on La Mesa’s history, newspaper articles, a list of donors who contributed $100 or more to The Lookout project and a small model of the Helix snail sculpture in the park. There will also be a mix of paper records and flash drives, Garrett said, because it is unclear right now what kind of technology people will be using in 50 years.
Luckily, current La Mesans don’t have to wait to enjoy the new park.
“Now that the trail goes through it as you go down the street, I think it will be a nice place for stopping and visiting and examining,” Mary Lynn said.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.