Council gets update on Encinitas Community Park


About 16 months after the opening of the $43 million Encinitas Community Park, the City Council received an update on the park’s usage and potential plans for future improvements at its meeting on Wednesday, May 18.

Among the highlights of the report, which was presented by interim Parks and Recreation director Jim O’Grady, were:

• The park, which includes sports fields, trails, picnic areas, a playground and skate park, has stayed within its $377,000 annual operating budget.

• Each week, some 1,000 people and their four-legged companions use the dog park, while about 1,500 visitors use the skate park.

• The park receives nearly 9,000 impressions on Instagram every two weeks.

• More than 1,000 trees have been planted in the park so far.

• The park’s sports fields have logged nearly 5,000 hours of use.

• The dog park has received a five-star rating on Yelp.

• From January through December 2015, the Sheriff’s Department received 143 calls for service at the park, or an average of 3.3 per acre.

“It’s really such a wonderful multi-purpose park. There’s are a variety of uses and a variety of users,” said O’Grady. “It’s a park not only for people, but well-loved by the dogs of our community.”

While the council just received the report and did not take any action on it, O’Grady outlined a number of potential future projects to enhance the park. Specific costs were not provided.

One priority, said O’Grady, is providing relief from the sun for users of the playground and dog park areas in particular.

“We know that shade is a desperate need,” O’Grady said.

Eventually, some of the trees will grow larger and provide more shade, he said, but, “That’s a long time to wait, we’d rather do something sooner than later.”

City staff has contacted companies that provide shade structures for playgrounds, and received estimates of $150,000 to $180,000 for a large structure that would cover the entire playground, said O’Grady. However, he said staff believes the goal can be achieved for less money by strategically placing smaller shade structures.

Staff is also considering adding additional shade trees, new paths to provide access to popular areas of the park, and more sophisticated lighting controls to save on electricity costs when the park is not in use.

O’Grady said the city can make a renewed effort to seek donations for park improvements, including a program in which inscribed bricks are sold and installed on the property.

Council members seemed open to the ideas. Mayor Kristin Gaspar suggested that fundraising efforts might be more successful if they were targeted toward a specific goal, such as raising money for shade structures or additional storage for sports teams.

The potential health risks posed by prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays make the shade structures “a wise move,” said Councilman Tony Kranz, especially for the playground area.

Kranz also said that city staff should keep in contact with neighbors of the park to make sure they are not impacted by noise or other issues caused by the park’s ongoing activities.

According to the report, among the calls received by the Sheriff’s Department, 30 were for juveniles causing a disturbance, five were for noise disturbances, 10 were for suspicious persons, 20 were for trespassing and 20 were for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

No date was set for further discussion of the proposed improvements to the park.