ESCONDIDO— The first of three community workshops was held on Aug. 2 to get community input on the Grape Day Park Master Plan.
The park doesn’t have a master plan which makes it difficult to receive funding, said Doug Grove of RHA Landscape Architects, who is spearheading the development of the master plan.
“The city can’t even apply for grants for improvements to the park unless they have something in writing,” said Grove.
The master plan will allow for improvements to receive funding when grants become available. Some of the improvements may not happen for years, depending on grant availability, but having the intent on paper makes it easier for the city to apply for funding.
Dozens of Escondido residents came to tour the park and to voice their opinions on everything from the granite slabs in front of the California Center for the Arts to the giant tree stump near the playground.
One of the problems residents pointed out was the lack of noticeable signage and an obvious entrance.
“We’ve got a lot of signage, but you can only see it with a microscope,” said Pat Mues. “We need big signs, so if you’re walking down the street you know what else is there.”
Another criticism was that the park was lacking color.
“There was a feeling that it was too blah,” said Kathy Padilla of Katherine Padilla & Associates. “There is a great desire for color. Everyone felt like it could be less monotone and more exciting with color.”
The role of dogs in the park was brought up, with some residents expressing concerns of dog poop.
“It is not a dog park, but it is dog friendly,” said Amy Shipley, assistant director of the Escondido Community Services Department.
Dogs are currently allowed on leashes in the park.
The 10-year-old Vinehinge playground is also due for an upgrade and attendees batted around ideas on how to incorporate the giant tree stump that sits near the playground.
Mues thought it’d be a great tree house for children.
The Escondido Creek, which runs on the north side of the park, was discussed and people said it seemed too foreboding with all the chain link fences and harsh concrete surrounding it. Somebody offered the solution of adding a mural on the side.
James Wilson, founding principal of Thirtieth Street Architects, Inc., mentioned San Luis Obispo’s creek as a model for what could be done to the creek.
Another goal of the updated master plan is to improve the park’s linkages to surrounding business and to tie in Maple Street Park, said Grove.
There will also be a heavy emphasis on the city’s history. The grape theme ties in to the city’s Grape Day festival, which celebrates the annual grape harvest. The event started in 1908 and was discontinued in 1950.
It was revived in 1996 and is celebrated on each Saturday after Labor Day.
Some residents said they’d like to see the grape theme enhanced in the entrances to the park, with grape trellises and bronze grape leaves.
Grove was chosen from 11 other landscape architects and received $100,000 to draft the master plan and to oversee playground construction. The funds came out of the city’s Capital Improvements Project budget.
The administrators of the community engagement workshop were pleased with the turnout and encouraged more residents to come to the second workshop Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Mitchell Room at City Hall.
The final workshop for community input will be held Oct. 21 and then the Master Plan will go to city council for approval.
The construction on the playground is expected to start within the next year or year and a half, said Grove.