http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/07/26/a-downtown-park-for-all-to-enjoy


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - July 26, 2013

A downtown park for all to enjoy

At long last, Pleasanton commissions and last week the City Council have given a thumbs up to a plan to expand and improve Lions Wayside Park that will benefit concert-goers, downtown merchants and residents along First Street who may now gain some relief from the loud music coming from the park's bandstand. It won't be quick. The estimated $4.1 million project won't go before planners and the council before 2015 at the earliest when funds should be available, but at least it's now a city priority heading in the right direction.

The plan calls for covering the ditch at the back of the park, extending the lawn to Railroad Avenue and relocating the bandstand to roughly where the commercial ice house now sits. More trees would be planted along the edges of the lawn area to create more shady spots as well as to soften the nighttime concert music. Those using the park could also walk to the Firehouse Arts Center. With the grassy area nearly reaching the back patio at the Firehouse, arts, entertainment and performances at the Firehouse could easily move outside.

All this is not new. In 2002, the City Council approved a master plan for a downtown parks and trails system that included Lions Wayside and Delucchi parks. Even then, as in the current master plan, both parks were considered as one. Although Neal Street that separates them would not be closed (that once was a consideration), an artistic brick-like paving composition would join both parks that at times could be barricaded to allow free-flow of concert-goers and other pedestrians.

Other council priorities, including construction of the Firehouse Arts Center, kept moving the Lions Wayside Park project to the back burner. The recession stalled all capital spending priorities for three years and even now, the park plan falls behind the multi-million-dollar improvements planned for Bernal Community Park, which the voters approved three years ago.

Another obstacle to moving forward with the Lions Wayside Park improvements is the steep-sided drainage ditch, or swale, that is 15-20 feet wide and slices through the back edge of both parks. It's a dry ditch behind Lions Wayside which shouldn't make it too hard to obtain the necessary environmental permits from state agencies to cover it; the ditch behind Delucchi, however, carries rainwater, which means special permits and more costs would be involved if drainage pipes were installed and the ditch covered.

Preliminary plans for the 2015 downtown park improvements calls for pedestrian plazas on both sides of Neal near First Street that would also serves as the recognized "Gateway to Downtown Pleasanton." Water features, a rose garden, group picnic areas and an open pavilion market also are in the plans with extended lawn areas and walking paths to downtown shops.

The Parks and Recreation and Civic Arts commissions held lengthy public discussions before recommending this latest plan to the council. Public input will continue to be sought as the issue moves toward a final recommendation and then funding.

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