Del Mar residents request open space, dog- and kid-friendly areas for Shores Park

About 150 people attended the event to share their thoughts and help shape a master plan for the site.
About 150 people attended the event to share their thoughts and help shape a master plan for the site.
(Kristina Houck)

Superman set the tone for the Plan Your Park workshop May 2 at Del Mar Shores Park.

About 150 people attended the event to share their thoughts and help shape a master plan for the site. The workshop invited all community members — even Superman — to provide input on potential park uses.

When asked what he wanted to see at the park, one young boy in a Superman costume told Kathleen Garcia, the city’s planning and community development director, “Superman wants a place to fly.”

Del Mar purchased the property from Del Mar Union School District for $8.5 million in 2008, in an effort to preserve open space and recreational uses, continue the operation of the Winston School, and initiate a master plan process. The long-range plan will guide the development of the 5.3-acre park along Camino del Mar.

“Right now we don’t have any design in mind, we’re just collecting information from the community,” said Glen Schmidt, president of Schmidt Design Group, the consultant hired to produce the park master plan.

The temporary shared-use plan in place allows Little League and other licensed sporting groups to use the park from 3:30 p.m. to dusk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Dogs are allowed to be off-leash from 6 to 8:30 a.m. daily and from 4 p.m. to dusk on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

All other daylight hours not included in the ordinance or used by the Winston School are reserved for general park use, with dogs on leashes and no organized sports.

“This is a great idea, getting everybody’s opinion,” said Del Mar resident Linda Katz.

Katz was one of several dog owners who brought her pet to the park for the event

“I want it to remain dog-, family- and adult-friendly,” she said. “I just love that there’s a place where children, adults and dogs can all play together.”

Mother and daughter Shirley and Brianna Becker also asked for continued shared use between people and pets.

“We’re just local residents who come here every day with our dogs,” Brianna Becker said. “A lot of different people use the park. It’s for children, but it’s also for dogs. We feel that these are our kids.”

“We pay taxes, too, so we feel we should be able to have a piece of the park for our family,” added her mother, Shirley.

Some dog owners asked for a separate space for their four-legged friends.

With her Shih Tzu, Elvis, in her arms, resident Barbara Scott said a dog run would allow dogs and children to play in a healthy and safe environment.

“Del Mar is a dog town; everybody has a dog,” said Scott, who has lived in Del Mar since 1972. “But I think the children come before the dogs.”

Many community members said the site should remain as open space.

Del Mar resident Nitza Leichtling argued against amenities that would transform the property into a busy place.

“If we put benches all over the place and make it really posh, it’s going to draw others and increase noise and increase traffic,” said Leichtling, who has lived in Del Mar for almost 30 years.

“When we purchased it, the intention was open space,” she added. “We want to keep it green. This isn’t a space, in my opinion, for big meeting halls or concert venues. We already have that at the Powerhouse. I’d like to see this as an open, green space for dogs and kids to play and for people to walk.”

Other community members, however, requested benches, picnic tables and a mixed-use space with no fences.

Carmel Valley resident Michelle Heavey said she would like to see “anything that’s kid-friendly.” With her 3-year-old son in tow, Heavey said a playground with a view would be a welcome addition.

“We come down here a lot to use the resources around here,” she said.

Local Darcy Bingham said she’d like to see fitness stations where young and old could exercise.

“I think more people would use the park if there were fitness stations, and we could have community workouts,” she said.

Del Mar resident Marjorie Moss said the site should be used for a community center with a pool. She pointed to the Encinitas Community Center as an example.

“I think that’s an ideal place — the way they have it arranged,” said Moss, who has lived in Del Mar for 40 years. “It’s available to the whole community.”

People wrote their ideas on sticky notes and placed them on boards marked as “guiding principles” or “potential amenities” during the workshop. Other suggestions included gardens and shade trees.

Kids also posted drawings of what they want the park to offer. Pictures included a place for dogs, a playground and a waterslide.

Looking at the sticky notes, designer Schmidt said he saw that “a lot of people really recognize the beautiful views and what a wonderful open space this could be.”

“Overall, the guiding principles, to me, looks like ‘Let’s be beautiful, let’s be elegant, let’s make this a beautiful spot for Del Mar to enjoy,’” he said.

The workshop is one of the final steps in the first phase of the three-part master plan process.

The first phase, called the “discover” phase, kicked off in November to learn how people want to use the park. Input was gathered from interest group interviews, informational pop-up booths and the city’s online tool MindMixer.

More than 400 people also responded to an online survey, Schmidt said. Results should be presented to the City Council in June or July.

To submit comments, email Kristen Crane, assistant to the city manager, at