Special Meeting at Park Draws a Crowd
More than 70 people came to the Palisades Recreation Center Tuesday night to comment on a proposed effort to move the park’s trash containers from the maintenance yard to a parcel of land adjacent to the lower tennis courts.
But first they listened as Bill McGregor, a real estate developer who has devoted four years to the Veterans’ Garden/bocce courts project, presented the latest plans to the Park Advisory Board.
“The area will go from the maintenance yard and extend north about 160 feet,” he said. “There will be three bocce-ball courts and five ‘living rooms.’” (Check my October 18 report on the remodeled picnic area and bocce courts for additional information.)
Palisadian Rob Jernigan of Gensler Designs oversaw the pro bono designs for the flagpole, the commemoratives and donor recognition panels.
McGregor said the lighting designs would be submitted separately, but basically the bocce courts would be lit around the edge, there would a light at the base of the flagpole (shining through the perforations in the metal) and there would be a light on the flag at night.
Board member Andy Starrels asked, “Have you included maintenance costs in the plan?”
McGregor said that they did not have a final cost for the project but expected it to be between $600,000 to $700,000. They’ve raised $800,000 and hope to have raised enough money for three years of maintenance, which is projected at $30,000 a year.
An audience member was worried what would happen if the maintenance budget ran out, because so much of the park “is in dire need of cleaning, upkeep and repairs.”
“[American Legion] Post 283 has given us $400,000, so my sense is they would not let it go to seed,” PAB member Bob Harter said. Post 283 member Jay McCann was in the audience and was asked if the Post could be counted on.
“You’ve said it all,” McCann said.
Another person read on the website (Veteransgarden.net) that area restaurants would deliver food. “That discussion is not part of the approval,” the audience was told.
Historical Society member Shirley Haggstrom explained that the park was initially established in 1928 by Richard Jaeckel for the community. “You’ve raised funds from the community, why not call it the Veterans Community Park?” There was no response to her suggestion.
Others wanted more information about the lighting. Would it be on all night, would it be intrusive, would the flag pole have to be lit all night and would the bocce courts need to be lit.
“We need interior lighting [bocce courts] so people won’t trip,” said Erich Haas, the Palisades Recreation Center director.
The audience was told that the lighting will be low-level and LED, but the hours and whether it would be on a timer had not yet been decided.
The hours for bocce-ball play are not set, but “it won’t go past 10 p.m.”
Pamela Burton & Company, an internationally-recognized landscape architecture firm, has developed the landscaping plans.
The audience asked about the next steps, which are: 1) If PAB approved the project, it would 2) go to the staff at the Department of Recreation and Parks; then 3) to a task force for parks; and finally (4) to the Park Commissioners.
“Does it ever go before the community again?” one audience member wanted to know. “No,” Harter said.
One audience member said, “It seems shortsighted to approve this without electrical plans. It worries me that there is not a maintenance budget and there are no plans about hours. There should be rules about operation and maintenance.”
McGregor said, “I have no problem bringing back a lighting plan. The hours haven’t been sorted out yet.”
Nearby resident Rob Weber said, “I agree with neighbors about light and noise pollution. The bounce houses [that are in the park for parties] operate off gas generators. How about including an electrical outlet in the park for them?
“We suffer from light pollution, and we’re concerned about having a light on the flag [365 days a year, 24 hours a day.]”
Another person wondered about children playing in the sand in the bocce-ball courts and was told they would not be able to because of the construction of the courts.
A parent of a teenager pointed out that the “living rooms” would be a “serious attraction for a lot of teenagers,” and asked if there would be some sort of oversight. No answer.
Eventually, PAB approved the project with an unanimous vote and it will now move on to Rec and Parks for further study.
Next up at the meeting: rats and the proposed move of the trash bins. (To be continued tomorrow.)