Government / Politics

Nearly $820K Spent on City Park Improvements in Two Years

More improvements are under consideration at parks throughout Hollister
mike chambless.jpg

The Hollister City Council has approved almost $820,000 for park improvements between July 2014 and Feb. 2016, according to Mike Chambless, management services director, in his update at the March 29 council meeting. He added that $250,000 of the total amount was supplied from grant funds. The update was the result of Councilwoman Mickie Luna’s request for monthly updates at the March 29 council meeting.

Chambless said projects had been completed at the following parks: Jerry Gabe, Park Hill, Las Brisas, Valley View, Calaveras, Tony Aguirre, Veterans Memorial, Cerra Vista, and Dunne.

Councilman Raymond Friend asked if a skate park had been built at Dunne and Cerra Vista parks yet. Chambless said they had not been installed, but the one at Veterans Memorial Park had been completed. He said a design for a skate park at Cerra Vista had been submitted, but had not been approved.

Chambless said the new skate park features at Veterans Memorial Park included re-paving an expanded area, new skate ramps, an ADA-accessible drinking fountain, and an Eagle Scout built a shade structure. In addition, he said a new playground has been installed to replace a vandalized playground at Las Brisas. ADA improvements were also added, as well as a split-rail fence built by an Eagle Scout.

“At Dunne Park we refurbished the baseball fields in time for the Junior Giants program,” he said. “We installed new safety fences at the baseball fields to keep someone playing the game from wondering out onto Seventh Street. We installed a new drinking fountain with a dog bowl and two new tennis court hitting walls. And we installed three new benches at the tennis courts.”

Chambless said a new playground and picnic tables had been installed at Jerry Gabe Park. New drinking fountains were also installed at Tony Aguirre and Calaveras Parks, and work is still being done at Valley View Park, which he anticipates will be completed July 1.

“We have completed a new toddler playground with new pathways of concrete and decomposed granite, new benches, and a rubberized deck on the water feature,” he said. “We had to replace the water feature pumps that were destroyed. We purchased a new climbing net. The one that’s there is showing its age.”

Valley View also received new security lighting and ADA drinking fountains with dog bowls. Chambless said there still will be a half basketball court.

“We performed $20,000 worth of tree pruning (at Park Hill) to remove dead and dangerous limbs,” he said. “We did a major drainage project for the playground area, which sits in a hole. A solution was designed back in 2000, and we went ahead and installed it. We installed an ADA accessible multi-use pathway, and ADA drinking fountain, a new ADA accessible playground, ADA safety surfaces, a new swing set, and an Eagle Scout has completed a shade structure. I have another Eagle Scout lined up to build another shade structure in the new ADA accessible picnic area. That’s estimated to be completed May 1 because of being delayed by the weather.”

“The estimated completion date of the Veterans Memorial Park softball fields is April 1,” he said. “The majority of it is done. We have a little more dirt to put in. We relocated and repaired the infield. We got the irrigation squared away and made fence repairs. We still have a little more to do on the turf rehab. It’s all level and ready to go.”

The latest project, which was funded at the previous council meeting, is a new ADA-accessible dog facility at Klauer Memorial Park in Sunnyslope Village. Chambless said it would be a challenge to figure out how to construct the ADA portion of the project in what was once a flood control area. He said the project will move forward as soon as he meets with members of the public who have shown interest in it.

“The way I have it laid out it will include a one-acre large dog area, a 6,000-square-foot small dog area, two drinking fountains, benches, waste dispensers, garbage cans, trees, and ADA accessible pathways,” he said.

Future projects include a new playground at Calaveras Park, which Chambless described as a major project primarily because all the concrete in the park must be removed being that it no longer meets safety requirements. Roofs on the bathroom and gazebo need repair. And a bridge feature will have to be removed because it is not ADA compliant.

“Another project is to begin designing a park to go out at McCarthy Park,” Chambless said, reminding the council, “The Office of Education is supposed to maintain McCarthy Park, in return for using our property at San Andreas High School. Somewhere things got confused and the city went out there and tore all the grass out in preparation to putting new grass in, but the drought was on full steam and we couldn’t justify putting that much grass back in.”

He suggested coming up with a design that uses less turf and perhaps a new water feature, as well as a possible skate spot and handball park.

“The wonderful thing about all those suggestions is they’re all hardscape, they don’t use water,” he said. “There will still be plenty of turf area for soccer fields.”

As part of the capital improvement plan, Chambless said he is proposing a pump room and bathroom facility at Valley View Park.

“We have a water feature out there,” he said, “and we need a bathroom. Those two things go together. I’m suggesting we put the bathroom in. It has a large storage room in back. Our current pump situation for the whale is underground and unsafe. This would allow us to move that stuff up where we can work on things safely and avoid injuries to our staff.”

Another future project includes paving the parking lot and installing ADA parking spots at Brigantino Park, which is located off Fourth Street on west side of Hollister. He said the multi-use trail should be paved and it should be completed in a circle rather than the horseshoe that it is. And he suggested permanent bathrooms, which would have to be composting because there are no sewer lines.

Chambless said the park master plan needs to be updated because it has not been changed since Feb. 2002. He also suggested that the public works facility be relocated to domestic wastewater treatment plant area. Once that is accomplished, he proposes a 4.5-acre park be built at the former public works location.

“When the yard was conceived and built, it was on the edge of town,” he said. “It wasn’t surrounded by houses with little kids playing in the front yards. We have hundreds of trips a week with heavy equipment, dump trucks, bulldozers, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s an accident. It’s not fair to the citizens.”

After completing his report, Luna said she had driven around to several of the parks on the west side of the city. She said she noticed children running into the street at Aguirre Park and asked if a fence could be installed there. Chambless said he would look into it, but said he was reluctant to put a six-foot chain-link fence there because it would change the look of the park. He recommended perhaps a split-rail fence. She also wondered if more benches might be installed around the tennis courts at Dunne Park.

“I did go to Park Hill and it’s beautiful,” Luna said. “The only concern I have is the barbecue area. It’s dark and not very clean.”

Chambless said he plans before the summer season to remove the bushes between the barbecue and the road in order to open up the sight-line so it will be less secluded. He said his goal is to have that and the new picnic area completed by May 1, weather permitting.

Luna also pitched the ideas of handball courts at Calaveras and a water park on the west side. Friend reminded Chambless that a promise had been made over a year ago to skateboarders that equipment would be located at two parks in addition to Veterans Memorial Park. Bill Avera, city manager, said it was actually three parks: Dunne, Aguirre and McCarthy.

Avera said the design for a skateboard park is completed for Dunne Park and the council needs to approve expenditures for it. He said Aguirre Park will have a smaller skateboard park and a design needs to be considered for McCarthy Park.

“Not everybody in the Dunne Park area is completely happy with having a skate spot within the park,” Avera said. “I think it is fair to provide a 300-foot notice to those around Dunne Park, and take it to the Planning Commission so their concerns can be heard before we bring it to the city council.”

Councilman Victor Gomez thanked Chambless, Avera and Mayor Ignacio Velazquez for their support in making improvements to Valley View Park, from which he said he lives across the street. He then said he is against building bathrooms there.

“I’m trying to not be biased because my kids can run across the street to use our restroom,” he said. “I’d love to get the chief’s (David Westrick) perspective on restrooms in parks because I have concerns with that over drug use, graffiti activity and other issues that lead to neighborhood problems.”

Gomez said the uniqueness of the park with its water feature makes it a true city park that attracts people from throughout Hollister.

“I’m excited about that,” he said. “Bathrooms will definitely be interesting and I’d love to have some community input before we move forward with that. Even though Dunne Park is not in my district I think you need community input because skateboards can be loud and kind of obnoxious to a lot of neighbors.”

Councilman Karson Klauer said District 3 is anxiously waiting for its first park, which brought laughter from the council.

“So, my question is, do we have a plan on the books for what that’s going to look like,” he asked.

Chambless said there are some preliminary designs, but he said he needs to make some changes before submitting them. Avera said he wanted to forewarn Klauer that the park size is not huge because it will be located in an “awkward location” inside the development alongside Southside Road.

“We want to push inside this development as much as possible so we don’t have youngsters running out onto that street,” Avera said. “That’s a major concern of Mike’s and the city.”

 Klauer pointed out that the prospective site of the new park is prone to flooding. He also asked what the process was for naming parks. Avera said the city council a number of years ago came up with a naming policy, which he said he would forward to Klauer.

Velazquez said every area is unique and it’s important to know what the citizens who live in those areas want.

“It’s one thing for us to say what should go there; it’s another for them to say what they want,” he said.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]