Mission Viejo

Another Million Dollar Park?

By Larry Gilbert

In the August issue I covered our one million dollar plus dog park. Today I will share another million-dollar plus proposal from our city staff that can be dramatically reduced.
Beulah Park in Florida is an example
of a park with similar amenities built for far less

I refer to a future Capital Improvement Project (“CIP”), which calls for an expenditure of $1.3 million of developer park fees to convert Pavion Park's playground. While we do have children and adults with special needs, be it those in wheelchairs, to others with hearing or vision impairments, to some with autism and Downs Syndrome, our council and staff should devote some time to due diligence before giving a final stamp of approval. Let me explain why.

Max Berg Park in San Clemente is another
example of a park built for far less
I visited the Esperanza school in Mission Viejo to see their new playground with poured-in-place rubber flooring. Star Avedesian, their principal, told me that the entire playground project cost was $50,000. Most of that money was raised by Rotary Club pancake breakfasts. Granted, the area is considerably smaller than Pavion but it's a huge leap from $50,000 to $1.3 million.

I later visited the new "special needs" playground at Max Berg Plaza Park in San Clemente. According to Orange County Register, the cost of this park was $150,000. The report claims that this new playground offers "universal access--accessible to wheelchairs and to children with disabilities, letting them play alongside other kids." This is a great facility with "poured-in-place" rubber flooring and sand in the entire playground area. I sent council and staff photos of that $150,000 playground that is 40% the size of Pavion.

Engaging in my own due diligence I also shared with council and staff my research in Florida where Escambia County added special needs playground equipment into six parks at a total cost of $340,000. Included with my written communication were photos and supplier contact information.

I understand the Pavion Park plan calls for adding a water feature. To move forward with such a proposal is not what many of us expect from our city council members who labeled themselves as fiscal conservatives when running for office. Park "fees" are not free money. Our city has numerous parks that need to be maintained.

Much of this $1.3 million could be designated for adding restrooms in our city parks for the children playing sports such as AYSO games. As reported in the August issue of this paper, 13 of San Clemente's 18 parks have restrooms and yet, we only provide 9 in our 39 parks.

Although our 2007 council initially authorized a design budget of $82,000, I recall our original city hall off La Alameda. When we swapped land to the current site we scrapped the design plans of that building which I was told cost us one million dollars. There is nothing preventing this council from shifting gears just as they did with the dog park whose original design was for the Murray Center area.

While I support adding some new special needs playground equipment this plan is just too expensive when it has already been demonstrated it has been done for far less elsewhere.

If you agree with my suggestion about this excessive expenditure please feel free to contact our city by simply sending an email to City Clerk Karen Hamman, at: KHamman@cityofmissionviejo.org

Larry Gilbert, a retired electronics industry executive, has lived in Mission Viejo since 1977. He is an elected board member of the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights. Larry is also a former Board Member of South Coast Christian Assembly church and leader of their Senior Ministry.

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