Solana Beach Veterans Honor Courtyard is now award-winning

Solana Beach Veterans Honor Courtyard is now award-winning
The Veterans Honor Courtyard at La Colonia Park recently received an achievement award from the California Parks and Recreation Society. The area includes 12-inch square tiles featuring the names of U.S. veterans living and deceased, as well as those who are currently serving. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

SOLANA BEACH — Due in part to community involvement and its recognition of service members, the Veterans Honor Courtyard at La Colonia Park recently received an honorable mention achievement award from District 12 of the California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS).

“This is quite a pleasant surprise,” Mayor Mike Nichols said at the March 22 council meeting, when the organization’s president presented the city with the award during oral communications. “I didn’t know we were doing this.

“Thank you very much for this honor,” he added. “That was a very special project for our community, not only because it honors veterans … (but) because the community actually contributed to it. It brought home a lot of good feelings to the community.”

Recognition for veterans was included in improvement plans for La Colonia Park and Community Center, but that project is on hold indefinitely because of a lack of funding.

Council members approved plans for the honor courtyard in 2012 after a community group, led by former Mayor Teré Renteria, asked if the project could move forward apart from the La Colonia renovation.

Money for the approximately $300,000 project came from the city, a county grant and private donations that include about $40,000 raised by the community group through donor tile sales.

The 12-inch square tiles are installed in the courtyard with the names of U.S. veterans living and deceased, as well as those who are currently serving.

The CPRS, with more than 4,000 members statewide, advances the parks and recreation profession through education, networking, resources and advocacy. Founded in 1946, the nonprofit organization provides resources, tools, advocacy and events that strengthen California’s public parks and recreation industry and professionals.

The District 12 award program recognizes the outstanding achievements of agencies in San Diego and Imperial counties.

The achievement award recognizes park projects that have a unique element to them, said Manuel Gonzalez, last year’s District 12 president.

“The La Colonia honor courtyard received an honorable mention because it took a look at an area that needed enhancement and took the opportunity to recognize veterans,” he said. “There was a nice collaboration with the VFW that made the project possible and donor tiles provided funding. That’s what made it stand out.”

He said a committee made up of representatives from different cities score the submissions based on the application statement, contribution to the CPRS and innovation and creative design in a variety of categories.

“La Colonia Park, everybody knows, is a special place,” Solana Beach’s Parks and Recreation Department Director Kirk Wenger said. “This place (the courtyard) makes it even greater.

“On a daily basis I’m able to see people enjoy it, especially the veterans who come and spend time there,” he added. “It’s a special park. It’s even better now.”

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