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File #: 2019-7235   
Type: New Business
Body: Recreation and Park Commission
On agenda: 9/12/2019
Title: Review Options and Provide Direction on a Jackson Park Natural Play Area
Attachments: 1. Jackson Park Neighborhood Meeting Input Compilation, 2. Natural Play Options



Review Options and Provide Direction on a Jackson Park Natural Play Area




To: Honorable Chair and Members of the Recreation and Park Commission


From: Amy Wooldridge, Recreation and Parks Director


Re: Review Options and Provide Direction on a Jackson Park Natural Play Area





During the City’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019/21 Budget process, a group of Jackson Park neighbors spoke at the Recreation and Parks Commission (Commission) meeting to advocate for a small play area to be installed at Jackson Park.  After hearing the comments, the Commission included project in its recommendation to City Council for the FY 2019/21 budget.  The City Council then allocated $75,000 toward a play area at Jackson Park during its FY 2019/21 budget discussions and approval.  The funds are to be used if there is sufficient neighborhood interest in a play area at Jackson Park.  If not, then the funds will be re-allocated to different park projects yet to be determined.


On July 23, 2019, staff held a neighborhood meeting and approximately 75 people attended.  Overall, the comments were equally for and against a play area at the park with some people expressing interest but with reservations.  A full compilation of the comments received are in Exhibit 1.  A number of residents expressed concerns that there is deferred maintenance at the park that should be addressed.  These included the asphalt pathways, lighting, trees and the bandstand.


Park maintenance staff is currently securing quotes for replacing/resurfacing the asphalt pathways.  Some areas can be resurfaced and some require full repair and replacement.  Staff is also considering options on replacing some or all of the interior pathways with decomposed granite (DG) instead of asphalt.    The considerations include cost differences as well as long-term maintenance since DG requires a higher level of maintenance in order to keep it fully ADA accessible.


Regarding trees, Park Maintenance staff is also working on a tree replacement plan for the park and will work with an arborist on how to address the sycamores in the park.  There are many mature sycamores that have a powdery mildew problem, which is common across the state.  It is costly to address and staff is working on quotes and options for the sycamore trees.  Separately, there is a tall stump remaining that some residents asked to have removed.  It was originally left there because a resident wanted to carve it into a sculpture.  That did not materialize and the City does not have funding allocated to hire an artist and will instead plan to remove the stump.


Regarding the lighting replacement, the park lighting replacement is a part of the overall City lighting replacement program that is managed by Public Works.  Jackson Park is high on the list and it is anticipated that at least some, if not all, of the lights will be replaced within the next 2-3 years with the historic light design that is in Sweeney Park.


Lastly, the wood rot and other issues at the bandstand have been addressed and fixed but the bandstand cannot be opened to the public for use until it is ADA accessible.  At this time, it is cost prohibitive since it would require either an interior elevator or an exterior ramp that circles the building, which also would affect the bandstand’s historic aesthetic.  Staff is instead working on ideas to program more events at Jackson Park that would occur on the broad grass areas.  Staff met with the Downtown Alameda Business Association Strategic Planning Committee and brainstormed ideas for event and activity collaborations at Jackson Park.




Staff is providing three options regarding the play area (in no particular order) for the Commission to consider and provide direction.  These options were developed based on the community input.  Both benefits and drawbacks are provided for all options.  Overall, it was clear that a playground is not necessary to fulfill the requested needs but rather a small natural play area and/or gathering space for families would suffice.  A natural play area / gathering space also better fits the historical aesthetic of the park.


One option is to hire a landscape architect to create two to three conceptual designs for a gathering space / natural play area.  This is estimated to cost $5,000 - $10,000 for the concept designs plus additional cost for final detailed design and construction plans.  The cost of the detailed plans is unknown until a concept is finalized but could cost an additional $25,000.  With a total budget of $75,000, this is the most costly option and may require seeking additional funding to complete.  See Exhibit 2, pages 1 and 2 for ideas on possible design ideas.


A second option is to leave the space as it is today and continue the work described above to address and improve pathways, lighting, existing tree health and new tree planting, and encouraging more events and positive activities at the park.  Staff will work on these issues regardless of the outcome of the play area.  Under this scenario, staff will bring options to the Commission on how to reallocate the $75,000 budget, including keeping all of it within Jackson Park, which would expand the scope of work for these maintenance issues, or utilizing some portion for Jackson Park and the remainder for other parks.


A third option is to build a small gathering space / natural play area that utilizes pre-made components from a playground supplier.  These may include components such as a climbable rock, log, or animal sculpture (see Exhibit 2, page 3).  Many playground companies have these types of natural looking components and all will provide several concept designs at no cost.  This option has the opportunity to create a natural play space at a lower cost but the designs may be less creative and organic as a uniquely designed play space.


Any designs developed will be brought back for the Commission to consider and the public to provide input.


Staff opinion is that a small, natural area could be developed that appeals only to local neighbors who would walk or bike to the park, thus addressing the concerns about additional parking and traffic.  And by utilizing components that are intended for quieter, calmer play then there is less likelihood of high intensity, loud noises that impacts adjacent neighbors.  The types of components shown in Exhibit 2 are designed for calmer play as opposed to swings, slides, and other moving components that generate a higher energy level with children.  A low, 2 foot wood fence would help parents of small active children but some neighbors have concerns regarding the aesthetic of adding a fence.  Another option is to use seating around the play space as a more natural barrier as seen in some of the photo examples. 





If the Commission choses the option to hire a landscape architect for conceptual designs, it is estimated to cost $5,000 to $10,000 and would be funded from the total $75,000 allocated for a play area at Jackson Park.  Once a design is chosen, then the final construction costs will be provided to the Commission.  If the Commission directs staff to not move forward with any play area at Jackson Park, then the allocated funds, in the amount of $75,000, will be re-allocated to the Park Maintenance Improvement Fund with final approval of project allocation by the Commission.  If the Commission provides direction on a play area with pre-made components from a playground supplier then staff will present design options and associated cost for final recommendation by the Commission.




To review options provided by staff and provide direction on a natural play area at Jackson Park.



Respectfully submitted,

Amy Wooldridge, Recreation and Parks Director



1.                     Jackson Park Neighborhood Meeting Input Compilation

2.                     Natural Play Area Options