ESCONDIDO — Jerry Harmon walked through the brand new pocket park on Saturday evening, stopping to view local artist Zane Kingcade’s large mural on the side of a wall.
Harmon said of the park that it’s turned an otherwise closed off location on Escondido Boulevard into an appealing open feeling that makes people want to use the trail.
The inviting sense that the park brings allows people to say, “It’s OK, I’m supposed to be here,” Harmon added.
Designed by Nathan Stout, the park is the first of what city officials and community volunteers hope will become a part of what Kevin Barnard, board president of The Escondido Creek Conservancy, described as creating a series of “beads on a necklace, providing things to do and see along the way.”
The project has been in the works for a couple of years, according to Ann Hough, managing director of The Escondido Creek Conservancy.
But it was only when they received a grant from the Escondido Charitable Foundation and other donations from the Kiwanis Club of Escondido and personal donors that the park was able to move forward.
Stout said the park took the vision of the Reveal the Creek community group to design, and he just put the ideas down on paper. “What they were looking for was a place that brings together the community that uses the Escondido Trail, local business and also the river, and so in the design, we have elements that reflect the business, provide usefulness for the people and elements that are reminiscent of a river of flowing water,” Stout said.
Bike racks that resemble juncus plants, which, Stout explained were culturally significant to the native people in the area give cyclists a place to lock their bikes.
And Stout said they’ve started calling an oak tree they’ve planted their “legacy oak,” because it should persist well beyond all of us.
“To have a group of people with a vision and a willingness to take action, and then to see them succeed in creating their vision, is extremely rewarding,” Stout said.
With the park being his first built project, he said there were no words to describe how it felt to see it translate from paper to reality. “It’s pretty incredible to see it come to life,” he said.
“It makes it a visible improvement,” said Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz. “There are environmental reasons to work along the creek…and it’s not always obvious to the public why that’s important, but when you have a recreational, and visibly pleasing project, suddenly there’s interest,” she said. “And I think that’s what you’re seeing, just from this project…and then they learn about the creek,” she added.
“This is exactly the kind of project that we should be encouraging,” Diaz said.
Mayor Sam Abed said the almost seven mile project will serve the community’s best interest.
He added that the city fought hard to receive SANDAG funding for lights that were recently installed along the trail.
“And we continue to lobby for more money from the federal government, from the state government, to have this project completed,” Abed said. “We are doing it one project at a time, and that’s what it takes.”
Several other projects along the creek have been completed or are being planned, including the building of three Habitat for Humanity homes last June and working to connect Stone Brewery with the urban network of creek trail.
A master plan-approved skate park is in the works at the city-owned Washington Park, Diaz said.
The pocket park is at 510 N. Broadway.
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