OCEANSIDE — Oceanside recently applied for a $1.1 million grant to improve the widely used Joe Balderrama Park.
The grant will fund new playground equipment, handball courts, basketball courts, benches, a shade structure, and outdoor stage in the park, which is sorely in need of upgrades.
“The play structure is in disrepair and outdated, field/grass maintenance needs improvement, the benches are deteriorating,” Margery Pierce, city neighborhood services director, said.
The park improvement grant is awarded through the Housing Related Parks Grant Program, which grants funds to low-income neighborhoods that provide affordable housing.
The planned $1.1 upgrades for Joe Balderrama Park will serve as a good start in fulfilling the park Vision Plan, which calls for $12.1 million in improvements.
City Council unanimously approved the grant submission on Feb. 15. Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said the improvements are a positive step forward.
Councilman Jack Feller said changes will add to park safety.
Joe Balderrama Park is used by afterschool programs, families, soccer players, and for recreational tennis and basketball. The park sees about 100 users a day.
Sadly, it is also the site of a gang shooting that killed a 15-year-old girl in September 2016. Young Annabelle Flores was with a friend on the playground structure when she was shot and killed.
Proposed park improvements will create better park visibility for police from San Diego Street. New playground equipment will be installed closer to the street and within better view. Reoriented handball courts will stop people from cutting the fence and running through the park.
Several Eastside residents, including Annabelle’s grandfather, Robert Espinosa, attended last week’s City Council meeting to show their support for park improvements.
Espinosa asked City Council for more programs to support the city’s low-income families in November.
The city also applied for a California Youth Soccer and Recreation Development Program grant in December 2016 to fund adding two soccer fields to the park.
More than 60 kids participate in a neighborhood soccer club formed by two dads, and supported by the Eastside Neighborhood Association.
The $355,000 youth soccer grant will pay most of the costs of ground leveling, and installing irrigation, field lights, goal posts, and a buffer area for spectators. The city is awaiting word on whether the grant is awarded.
Oceanside will hear if $1.1 million in park improvement funds are granted in June. If funds are received park amenities could be in place within two years.