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Board OKs $12 million in improvements at five Carmel Valley parks

Solana Highlands Park will get a new comfort station for park users.
(Karen Billing)

Amenities like synthetic turf and comfort stations will be coming to five Carmel Valley parks as the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board gave the nod for $12 million worth of improvements at its June 26 meeting.

The $12 million comes out of Carmel Valley’s Facilities Benefit Assessment (FBA) fund, paid into by developers to assure that new development pays for proportional community facilities.

The board approved adding synthetic turf at Carmel Valley Community Park (at the recreation center) and Ocean Air Community Park, and new comfort stations (restrooms) at Solana Highlands Neighborhood Park, Carmel Knolls Neighborhood Park on Carmel Canyon Road, and Carmel Del Mar Neighborhood Park.

Robin Shifflet, from the city’s planning department, said she will take the approved items to City Council to have them approved into the city’s capital improvement program and begin the design and construction process.

The cost of the turf at Carmel Valley is estimated at $3.6 million and the cost for upgrades at Ocean Air is $5.7 million. The comfort stations are each estimated at $868,000. The costs might be projected a little higher as they are simply planning-level costs, Shifflet said.

Carmel Valley Community Park is one of two parks selected to have synthetic turf fields.
(Karen Billing)

The Carmel Valley Recreation Council made its recommendation of the top five projects in the community from a list of 16 potential park improvements. According to Shifflet, $18 million in FBA funding is available and projects that qualify for FBA funding have to increase capacity at the park, not just be physical improvements.

Board member Ken Farinsky, who serves on the recreation council, said the board couldn’t agree on $18 million worth of projects, so they narrowed it to those seen as the biggest priorities.

Farinsky said the council selected parks to receive synthetic turf as the ones that are the most heavily used and lighted.

Replacing grass with synthetic turf does not just realize water cost savings, but can also increase the amount of use for the fields. Farinsky said these fields are intensely used and they need to rest, sometimes having to be shut down for months for maintenance.

“Synthetic turf can be used more because it doesn’t wear out the grass and we can maximize the use by doing it at sites with lights,” he said, noting they can run programs on the fields into the evening hours.

As for the comfort stations, Farinsky said they selected parks from staff and sports programs’ points of view that stood out as missing restrooms or needing an upgrade.

Farinsky said the council has heard a lot of complaints about Solana Highlands’ lack of restrooms and that Carmel Del Mar’s existing restrooms are “awful.”

Farinsky said the council is looking to cut costs by using the design of the comfort station at the new Solana Ranch Park as a model.

Chair Frisco White said he had concerns that synthetic turfs will need to be replaced in 10 years and he wanted to ensure there will be funding available to do so.

Shifflet said they are in talks with the mayor’s office on creating a fund from the water and maintenance cost savings of artificial turf to use for replacement at all city parks. The cost to replace the synthetic turf is much lower than the cost of installation, at $1 million.

Other items on the wish list for improvements are multi-sport arenas and new picnic areas at Carmel Valley Community Park, turf upgrades and lighting at Ashley Falls Neighborhood Park, more parking and seating areas at Torrey Highlands Neighborhood Park, comfort stations at Carmel Mission and Carmel Grove Park, and a new children’s play area at Carmel Creek Neighborhood Park.

Farinsky said that the recreation council is always open to suggestions from the community about potential park improvements. The council meets at 7 p.m. every first Tuesday at the Carmel Valley Recreation Center. Call the rec center at 858-552-1616.


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