Overlooks, terraced seating, shade: Del Mar residents share ideas for Shores Park

With the site’s master plan process underway, Del Mar residents recently had an opportunity to provide input on their preferred amenities and layout of Del Mar Shores Park during a Plan Your Park workshop.

More than 100 people participated in the Oct. 18 event at The Winston School, which sits on the site. All five members of the City Council attended the workshop, along with members of the Shores Advisory Committee, which was established to oversee the master plan process.

The city purchased the property from the 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, which is bounded by Camino del Mar, Ninth Street and Stratford Court.

When the city acquired the site, which served as Del Mar Shores School from 1947 to the 1970s, it agreed to a 55-year lease with The Winston School, a private school that has been on the land since 1988.

Besides the 1.8-acre school site, the property features recreational areas, such as a baseball field and a basketball court. It also houses the Del Mar Community Building, an 1,800-square-foot building that once served as the school district’s administrative offices.

In 2012, the city entered into a two-year lease agreement with the Del Mar Foundation, allowing the nonprofit and Del Mar Community Connections to use the building while a master plan is developed for the entire property. The lease was renewed for another two years in 2014.

To learn the community’s vision for the property, Schmidt Design Group, the design consultants hired to prepare the park master plan, shared a range of case studies, from rural parks to industrial parks and everything in between.

Participants then placed green stickers next to photographs, indicating their preference for potential park features. These included varying options for park forms, overlooks, community buildings, slopes, shade, seating, play area, dog parks, open turf and public art.

Residents covered a number of the choices in stickers, making it difficult to determine clear winners in some categories. But some of the features quickly became favorites.

Under the formation of the park category, participants clearly favored a park with organic form and natural materials over a more structured park with contemporary forms or formal gardens. Participants also liked the idea of an overlook that doubled as a boardwalk or an overlook with terraced gardens. They also indicated they would like to have terraced seating and shade trees.

As for a community building, many participants placed their stickers next to a photo of the existing building, but a photograph of Fletcher Cove Community Center in Solana Beach was a close second, indicating others would like a similar building with coastal architecture.

After the exercise, attendees gathered into groups to design the park, using a template, markers, yarn, scissors and other materials. At the end of the workshop, one person from each table presented the designs.

Groups had different layout ideas, with a couple of the groups even relocating the community building to a different part of the property. As for a dog area, several of the groups liked the “ha-ha” concept, a recessed landscape design that would create a vertical barrier while preserving the view.

A shared-use plan is in place at the park, allowing Little League and other licensed sporting groups to use it 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.

“There’s been some amazing creativity here today,” said Glen Schmidt, president of Schmidt Design Group, after hearing the ideas.

The workshop was the final step in the second phase of the three-part master plan process.

The first phase, called the “discover” phase, kicked off last fall to learn how people want to use the park. Input was gathered from interest group interviews, informational pop-up booths, an online survey, an online information-gathering tool called MindMixer, and the first Plan Your Park workshop in May. Combined, these helped the consultants identify seven guiding principles and a list of potential amenities.

The second phase called “imagine” looked at the character and style of the park amenities, as well as layout ideas for the park.

With input from the public, the group’s next step is to design the park during the final “create” phase.

“We have not started designing the park,” Schmidt said. “This has all been information gathering. After today, we’re really going to start designing the park.”

Schmidt Design Group will present three park designs in the spring. At that time, another workshop will take place to select one of the designs, which will go to the council for approval.