Kerry Chan/Daily Journal
Nyssa and Rocco swing at the children’s playground in San Mateo’s Central Park. City officials are moving toward creating a new master plan that may include improvements to the play areas provided the city can identify a funding source.
San Mateo is enlisting the community’s help to update the city’s Central Park Master Plan with the City Council approving a contract with RRM Design Group to assist in creating long-standing goals.
The park’s current master plan was adopted in 1982 and officials believe it’s time to update the vision of the city’s downtown amenity.
“Central Park is really the gateway into the city … but Central Park hasn’t had a service or design upgrade in a long time and it’s kind of showing its age,” said Councilman David Lim.
The park holds numerous public festivals, the Music in the Park series, athletic events, is a great place for families to spend time with each other and is frequented by people going for walks after dining downtown, Lim said.
Public input is valuable and locals will be given ample opportunity to contribute ideas as the master plan develops, said the Parks and Recreation Director Sheila Canzian. According to the proposal by RRM Design Group, a landscape architecture, engineering and surveying firm, public outreach will be conducted through focus groups, workshops, stakeholder meetings, surveys and social media platforms.
“It’s very important to get the public involved because it is our community park. We want to hear from everybody about what they want to see. The more people involved in the design, the better the end product will be,” Lim said.
Although it could be some time before actual construction begins, updating the master plan is a critical step in enhancing Central Park, Canzian said.
“In the long term, it becomes a really important blueprint so that we know that, as money becomes available, what are the most important improvements or changes that need to happen,” Canzian said.
Instead of focusing on singular projects within the park, the master plan allows the city and residents to take a step back and create a vision for the park as a whole, Canzian said.
Improving the playground area will probably be one of the first projects the city undertakes, Canzian said. Although there is substantial room for new ideas, there are aspects to the park that will stay intact. The Japanese Tea Garden and the Arboretum Society’s Kohl Pumphouse are historic areas of the park that won’t be altered, Canzian said.
Enlisting the help of the community will generate ideas that city staff may not have otherwise considered, Canzian said.
Lim would like the park to become more inviting and accessible to downtown visitors. He’d like to flip the location of the current underutilized community center with the tennis courts that sit above the parking structure on Fifth Avenue, Lim said. By building a new recreation center atop the parking garage, Lim said the park will start to feel more immersed with downtown.
Challenges will undoubtedly arise related to both the lack of space and funding, Canzian said.
“There’s always more ideas and needs than what we could possibly design for in a park, and that’s a challenge for any park we’re looking at. A real challenge is when you try to provide some trade-off and some balance,” Canzian said. “But the more significant challenge after we get the master plan, is how do we fund it?”
Only the master plan’s price tag was allotted for in the 2013-2014 fiscal year Capital Improvement Project budget, according to a city staff report. The council approved the $288,074 to contract with RRM. However, currently there is no source of funding for any actual development, Canzian said.
City staff will be sitting down with RRM in the upcoming weeks to outline a time frame after which they’ll begin to post updates on the city website, Canzian said.
Lim looks forward to working with the community and councilmembers to developing a lasting contribution to the city.
“I believe that every council needs to have at least one grand vision,” Lim said. “Something that unifies our community and something we can look at that makes our community better for our kids than how we found it.”
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