ENCINITAS — Eight-year old Trevor Jeffrey said he had heard about the new skate park that all his friends had been talking about in Encinitas, so he asked his mom to take him last Saturday.
His reaction as he stood in the low of the park’s burnt-orange colored ramps?
“I was literally in tears because I was so happy,” said Trevor, an avid skateboarder. “It is beautiful.”
Technically, the Encinitas Community Park does not open until Saturday, when officials will celebrate the 44-acre park’s grand opening. This hasn’t stopped throngs of visitors — many of whom are coming from surrounding cities — from taking in the new park’s amenities.
And the reviews have been largely positive.
“Just before sunset, it’s like heaven,” Trevor’s mother, Beth Jeffrey said. “It’s definitely a great place.”
Further south in the park sit several concrete benches where parents host play dates and impromptu picnics with their children.
Lori Ray and Lisa Molnar, who visited the park from Carlsbad, said they would see the progress made on the park as they drove south along Interstate 5, but recently had wondered when it was going to open. Then, last weekend, they saw a number of people on the park grounds, and they’ve been there every day since.
The women said they loved the self-contained nature of the park: it sits away from any main streets, which allows the kids to frolic around relatively free of worry.
Ray said she liked the abundance of seating areas, grassy play areas and the walking pathways that snake around the park.
Molnar, echoed her friend’s sentiments.
“The concrete paths are definitely a hit,” she said, as her youngest son, Trent, sat nearby. Molnar, who has three boys, said she loved the fact that between the paths, the large children’s play area, her 13-year-old son Mason, her 10-year-old boy Gabe and Trent all had something to do.
“The bathrooms are also really nice, which is such a difference from other parks.”
Ah, the benefits of being the new park on the block.
The $40 million park has been in the works for 14 years, after the city acquired the property from the Hall family in 2001. After years of planning and environmental studies, the final environmental impact report was certified in 2008, and construction began four years later.
Along the way, the park has faced numerous hurdles. Local residents criticized its size, concerned it would clog Santa Fe Drive and surrounding streets with visitors; a regional water agency fined the city nearly $500,000 when construction caused sediment-filled runoff to run into Rossini Creek. Cardiff-by-the-Sea residents objected to field lights, which has capped the park’s hours at 10 p.m.
Ironically, the lack of adequate night time lighting was one of the few complaints from park goers this week.
“I wish there were more lights,” said Max Bohanner, a 12-year-old Carlsbad skateboarder, who said he likes the skate park’s large size, but isn’t a fan of the relatively short hours. “It would be more fun if we could skate later.”
Molnar, who lives near Carlsbad’s groundbreaking Alga Norte Community Park — and its stadium lighting— said she sympathizes with the Cardiff residents.
“Those lights at Alga Norte light up the whole valley,” Molnar said. “So I understand from the neighbor’s perspective.”
One thing she said that she and her husband did notice that was missing: basketball courts.
“Other than that, I think it’s a fantastic park,” she said. “The kids have loved it, we’ve spent most of our vacation here.”