Del Mar Mesa revitalizes preserve’s community park plan

By Suzanne Evans

An update of work needed to launch a Del Mar Mesa community park has become the “top priority” of District One Councilmember Sherri Lightner, who recently met with the city Parks and Recreation Department to continue working on the long-awaited park, located at the eastern end of the mesa, next to Duck Pond Ranch.

A “lost world” where buckwheat that quails love to eat and white California wild lilac trees blossom in the spring in the Del Mar Mesa Preserve are only moments away from the proposed park. The preserve attracts wildlife such as bobcats, rabbits, horned lizards, and even one or two stray mountain lions.

“We are looking at an update of plans,” Lightner’s representative Mel Milstein told the Del Mar Mesa community planning board at its April 11 meeting. Plans for the 4-acre languishing park site, consisting of no fencing and desolate patches of grass, were started over six years ago.

“Our new approach will look to build the entire park in one phase,” Milstein said, adding that stopping and restarting work might cause finance sources to dwindle. “We need to get the park design up to code.”

To help fund the park, board chair Gary Levitt said, “There is $1.5 million in the city facility assessment benefit fund account for Del Mar Mesa-related capital improvements. The money comes from building permit fees; every home built in the Del Mar Mesa area contributes approximately $100,000 to it. Now that new homes are being built in the area, the fund has been replenished, accruals for older projects paid, and additional homes can be anticipated to be built.”

The project will go out to public bid, but it is anticipated to cost between $2 million to $2.5 million, according to Levitt. Park construction could begin within the next 12 months and is expected to take about six to nine months to build.

“The park has been designed to act as a trail head for trails into the surrounding open space preserve. A favorite feature is the corral to enable equestrian users to ‘park’ their horses before and after rides. There will also be a parcourse, water fountains and bathrooms for trail users, half a basketball court, play areas for younger kids and casual grass areas for kids to play. The park will retain the grove of eucalyptus trees already on the property,” said Levitt.

A study of traffic surrounding the community park area also needs to be continued, because that update impacts the park, boardmember and developer Paul Metcalf said. “There will also be an updated Facilities Benefit Assessment report.” Pardee Homes paid for nine homes and another five are soon coming into the system.

“By the time we get through the bureaucracy, we will have the money,” Metcalf said. “Plans have already been made for an area where residents can relax in a passive play area and children run in grassy areas. There will also be picnic tables, restrooms, a one-half basketball court, as well as a horse corral where equestrian users can rest horses at hitch rails, and horse trailer parking.”

Metcalf recommended striping the adjacent road for on-street parking. “There will always be hiking groups with about 20 to 30 cars, because we are a community.”

Levitt stressed the need to “clearly define the project” to curb expenses, noting the park and formation of a park sub-committee will be an action item for the planning group’s May meeting.