New PHR park to feature public tennis, pickleball courts

The design for the new PHR park reflects amenities preferred by the community.

Pickleball and public tennis courts are coming to Pacific Highlands Ranch as the Pacific Highlands Ranch Recreation Group approved plans for the newest community park on Jan. 12. The new park will be located on the corner of Solterra Vista Parkway and Caminito Mendiola, adjacent to the Del Mar Union School District’s future school.

Park designer JT Barr said that they are utilizing every dollar of the city’s $8 million budget, reflecting the input of everything they heard over the course of design workshops that began in the fall. Since November, the parking lot was reduced from 45 spaces to 28 in order to make more room for all of the desired amenities, including playgrounds, a pedestrian loop, grassy turf, lots of shade, two lit tennis courts, two lit pickleball courts and a full-size basketball court.

Pacific Highlands Ranch (PHR) Recreation Group Chair Karen Dubey thanked the city and Schmidt Design for listening to the community and making changes—the two tennis courts will be the only public tennis courts in PHR and the outdoor pickleball courts will be a first in both PHR and Carmel Valley.

“I think this is a really great addition to the community and to add to the Carmel Valley/PHR park system,” Dubey said. “I’m very happy with the compromises that the whole team was able to make with the community and the board members.”

With the group’s approval, the design will now move onto the San Diego Park and Recreation board for final approval in February or March. The park is currently scheduled to be open to the public in late 2023.

The McGonigle Canyon Neighborhood Park name is currently a placeholder. Part of the recreation group’s approval was that they would be involved in naming of the park—they are holding off on discussing a potential name until they see what the neighboring Del Mar school will be named so it can be taken into consideration.

The approved park design embraces its natural topography, “softer and flowing in its structure” with a scenic overlook to the canyon at its highest point, entry crossings over a swale (that will be used for stormwater management) and a playground that takes advantage of a natural slope with climbing loops, rocks and a slide. The two-tiered, shaded children’s play area features a diversity of play options with nature-based, traditional and inclusive play, featuring many elements designed for children with disabilities. A comfort station near the playgrounds will feature restrooms, a handwashing area, drinking fountains and a water-bottle filling station.

Example of sloped playground features that will be included in the park.

A pedestrian perimeter loop will be one-fifth of a mile long around the 1.8-acre multi-purpose field—a youth-size backstop accommodates softball and little league baseball. A large community pavilion has several picnic tables underneath and a “durable” plant palette includes trees that will create lots of shade. PHR Recreation Group member Marilee Pacelli requested that there not be trees placed on the edges of the field as tree roots have caused issues at other parks like Solana Highlands.

Since the November design workshop and input received from the public, an additional tennis court was added to the plan. At the Jan. 12 meeting there was a request to have three or possibly four tennis courts to meet the needs of the community.

Dubey had advocated for having more courts in the past but she explained that if they have more than two tennis courts at the park, the city would turn it over to be run by a private entity, as is the case at Carmel Valley Tennis. The courts would then only be allowed to be used by the public for a small percentage of the time and the rest of the time it would be used privately for profit.

“Having two courts open to the public full time with lights at night we’re going to get a lot more use out of it than we would four courts only open to us a small percentage of the time,” Dubey said.

There is a picnic area between the tennis and basketball courts and while the hoops are not lit, the lighting around the park may allow for pick-up games to continue into early evenings.

During public comment, there were some concerns about traffic safety near the park as Solterra Vista Parkway is sloped and curved and drivers are inclined to speed in the area. Neighbor Joshua Chan shared that a drunk driving accident on Solterra Vista over the holidays resulted in a car crashed into his front yard. He made a request that the city consider some traffic-calming measures as the park will sit below the street.