Ad-hoc committee approves new Carmel Valley park design

By Karen Billing

The new Gonzales Canyon Neighborhood Park in Pacific Highlands Ranch has a park design. The ad-hoc committee to the Carmel Valley Recreation Council finalized design plans on April 23 in an effort to stay on a tight schedule of approval by the council in May and approval by the city parks and recreation council by June to kick off construction as soon as possible. Pardee Homes is committed to delivering the park for play by December 2014.

“I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out,” said Manjeet Ranu, committee chair, of the final design.

Taking cues from input received through surveys and past sub committee meetings, Schmidt Design Group came up with a plan that included all of the amenities everyone was looking for.

“They did a great job incorporating our feedback,” said committee member Anjali Gupta. “It looks like a very appealing park and place to visit.”

The 5-acre park off Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway will be anchored by a tree-lined promenade, a 12-foot wide walkway framed by the largest trees the budget can afford.

The plan includes a large community gathering space, designed as a bosque with picnic tables under a cluster of trees, a secondary shaded picnic table area, 10,000 square feet of tot lot space for both younger and older children, a comfort station, a sloped, grassy amphitheatre space, a half basketball court and maximized playing field space. The large turf area is 595 feet long and 155 feet wide.

As requested by the committee in March, a walking loop of about a quarter mile long has been incorporated into the plans, linking to both the promenade and the urban amenity trail that surrounds the park.

There are also “passive discovery areas” and contemplative areas along the northern, canyon- edge of the park for people to find a quiet spot away from the more active uses.

A much-discussed issue at the last subcommittee meeting was the parking that the park will require. Since that meeting, a survey was sent out and of 53 responses, 70 percent preferred no parking at the park. JT Barr of Schmidt Design said the city accepts the community’s position of no parking and the designers in turn pursued a plan without parking.

There are stalls on the street and during off-school hours, park visitors will be able to utilize the 60 parking spaces at the future neighboring Solana Ranch School.

Committee member Michelle Strauss said she still had concerns about the lack of even a small parking lot as she has wanted to make it easy for people who may be coming to the park with extra bags, equipment, etc. and small children when the school lot might not always be available.

“I accept where the community has fallen, at least the people who wanted to weigh in, and hopefully it will work out and won’t come back to bite us later,” Strauss said.

Ranu said if it becomes an issue they could work with the city once the park is open to establish a loading zone on the street near the park’s entrance.

Strauss stressed that overall she was very happy with the park’s design and the committee.

The committee approved the plan with only the conditions that the designer make the half-court basketball area bigger and that as many picnic tables as possible could be shaded.

One resident in attendance shared concerns about the comfort station being an open building so close to the canyon and its potential to become a safety issue if used by the transient population.

Barr said they designed the comfort stations to be centrally located; to make them highly visible and well lit which tends to deter unwanted activity. Although the bathrooms will be open 24 hours a day, according to Sarah Erazo, parks and rec. area manager, they are cleaned once a day typically in the mornings so any issue would be discovered.

Ranu also checked with officers at the San Diego Police Northwestern Division and found they do not have crime issues in Carmel Valley associated with those facilities.