There were nearly as many ideas as there were attendees at the workshop held Sept. 24 at the Senior Center, but a few stood out when participants were asked to place colored dots next to potential new features for the park. A water feature was by far the most popular, either as a piece of public art or as a "sprayground" for children to play in.
"A sprayground is a great way to bring people together and is well liked by the kids," is how one group of participants pitched the idea.
The purpose of the meeting is to gather input for a new "master plan" to redevelop the entire park, which was built in 1959 and is one of the city's three largest parks. It is unlikely that the park's new Senior Center and Child Care Center will be touched, but there are numerous older structures in the park such as the city's 1962 Community Center, that the council would like to find the money to replace, as well as the Rengstorff Pool, and the skate park. The Rock Church property at 263 Escuela Avenue was recently purchased by the city and will also be included in the park's master plan.
One group of a dozen frequent park users participated via a Spanish translator. Some said they were concerned with safety in the park.
"There are still some groups who get together and they are not friendly for the families," said one resident through a translator. Another pointed out that there isn't enough light for a nighttime walk in the park. "We need more bathrooms," said another.
After some small group discussions, several groups said they hoped for a teen center, which is possible at the Rock Church property. A teen center was supposed to be built along with the city's new senior center, but a lack of funds has put it on the backburner for many years. Some said they wanted a "multigenerational" center, which could be used by adults when teens were in school or not using it. A neighbor said she was scared of plans to heavily use the church property and hopes for a quiet "Zen garden" there instead.
Other clearly popular features for a new Rengstorff Park include more public art and a place to watch outdoor movies.
"I find it interesting that 92 percent of our blue dots are in activities," said one participant. "Parks are activities for a lot of people."
Rengstorff Park is already a place of much activity in a relatively small space. But residents appear to want to fit in even more. One woman said the senior center needed to be larger to accommodate the growing senior population. Another said the demand for swimming activities "outstripped" existing pool facilities at Rensgtorff Park. Others said the park needed more green space. And yet others called for storage and new spaces in a new Community Center.
One fix for the lack of space could be closing Crisanto Avenue on the north edge of the park and using the space to extend the park, said architects from the design firm on the project, Anderson Brulet, echoing statements from city officials.
Other ideas included native landscaping, a larger tree canopy, bike paths, rock climbing, an improved skate park and "colorful and peaceful" landscaping.
The ideal park was described as a place of "retreat" that "pulls you in and is really appealing to the eye," participants said.
After getting some direction from the City Council in the next few months, architects said they would be developing four different "master plan scenarios" for the community to consider in another public outreach meeting. The Parks and Recreation Commission would then review the plans before final approval by the City Council next year.