By Delle Willett
After years of planning, the City of San Diego is doing a $6.05 million overhaul of the Children’s Park, giving residents and nearby workers an invitation to come out and play.
Children’s Park was originally designed by internationally renowned landscape architect Peter Walker. Completed in August 1996 in time for the Republican National Convention at a cost of $2.8 million, the park was originally called “Civic Pond,” and was later changed to “Children’s Park.”
Covering two acres in San Diego’s urban fabric, this “passive” park is located between Front and First Streets on the south side of Island Avenue, with little to offer and little to do, and mostly frequented by downtown’s transient population.
In 2016, the city’s then-Downtown development agency, Civic San Diego, selected landscape architects Schmidt Design Group (SDG) to craft a new Master Plan for the park to remedy its perceived flaws. The plan was unanimously approved by the city’s Parks and Recreation Board in 2017.
The scope of the effort included robust community engagement with several public workshops where residents had the opportunity to express their ideas and desires for the park renovation. Much of the feedback received directly informed the final composition of the new reimagined master plan for the site.
According to SDG landscape architect and principal, JT Barr, “The design team was committed to activating the park, increasing usability and safety while honoring its iconic attributes — the urban forest and Civic Pond — which remain significant features in the new open-space vision.”
In 2018, Spurlock Landscape Architects was selected to prepare construction documents, permitting, and to perform construction observation of the park.
Spurlock Senior Associate Amelia Capron is project manager for the design team as the prime consultant, managing the completion of construction documents, permitting for the drawings, and coordination between the contractors and design team through construction.
“The new park programming is a true reflection of the neighborhood’s desires,” she said“It will now be able to serve its community, activating the space again and creating a true asset.”
The renovation effort, which is expected to be finished in the summer of 2021, will add family-friendly amenities intended to activate the entire space.
New amenities include space for a future retail vendor, dog run, large and unique children’s play area, fitness equipment, a flexible-use lawn surrounding the Civic Pond, picnic areas, game tables for chess, ping pong and cornhole.
A public restroom will be open 24 hours with an attendant who will be able to have eyes on the park. People will be buzzed in and out of the restroom by the attendant to reduce issues that have occurred in other Downtown public restrooms.
There will also be an off-leash dog park with an artificial turf called “K9 Grass” by ForeverLawn, specifically created for wear and tear by dogs, and featuring a routine cleaning regimen.
The children’s playscape includes a series of large custom play structures not found elsewhere in Southern California to create a destination playground. This equipment is primarily constructed of wooden components and includes a custom three-level tower structure with slides, wooden climbers, and equipment for 2- to 5-year-olds, a saucer swing and a “Viking” swing.
Spurlock principal landscape architect Brad Lents said that a major component of the design is the utilization of porous paving materials throughout the park to help treat stormwater and reduce large excavations for stormwater detention basins that would have impacted the preservation of many of the existing pine trees.
Because of the grading, in order to provide new program areas and ADA access throughout the park, a number of the existing trees will have to be removed.
“We worked closely with an arborist to save as many of the existing trees as we could, while replacing some of those that were removed with new trees,” explained Lents.
The removal of the existing Italian cypress around the perimeter of the park and replacement with Raywood ash will open up visibility into the park and provide better shade on the sidewalk.
A focal point in the park is a sculpture by Miki Iwasaki called “Petrichor,” meaning a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.
A sculptural installation consisting of multiple three-dimensional, interlocking abstract forms that “float” above the ground in a cloud-like shape, “Petrichor” is designed to take your eye up into the trees in search of the clouds. Night lighting will illuminate the artwork, creating a strong evening presence and serving as a beacon in the park.
Although the park is heavily amenitized, there is still room for flexibility and pop-up events. Construction is expected to start this summer so everyone can go out and play.
— Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, with an emphasis on conservation of the environment. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.