At the July 19 meeting of the Escondido City Council, members voted 5-0 to follow the recommendations of city staff and amend the approved master plans for Jesmond Dene and Mountain View parks—with a BMX facility envisioned for Jesmond Dene and an additional Little League field for Mountain View.
Staff presentations on the proposals were made by Assistant City Mgr. Jay Petrek, who noted that while the city has purchased all of the park lands it needs for its current population, that the parks still need to be built out.
The city previously approved the master plans for Jesmond Dene (1980) and Mountain View Parks (1988.) The action taken at this meeting amended the master plans for these two specific items, and not for any other facilities within the two parks.
The amendments allow the city to proceed with a Bicycle Motocross (BMX) facility and Pump Track. BMX, described by some local critics as an “extreme sport,” developed in Southern California in the early 1970s. It has grown to worldwide popularity and became an Olympic competition in 2008.
Jesmond Dene is a 41-acre park with 10 acres developed. It has two lit ballfields, one unlit ballfield, a concession building, a tot lot, playground and picnic areas.
The potential BMX park would require from 1-4 acres and would be located in the western portion of the park, said Petrek. The proposal would carve out an area in the park and lease it to an operator who would offer it for local residents at free or reduced fees at certain times.
Petrek noted that the city has received popular support for the idea. Staff has interviewed several different BMX operators in the region to learn what Escondido should look for in an operator.
Currently there are over 370 BMX parks in the U.S., a tenth of them in the Golden State. The city is preparing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to see what BMX operators are interested in leasing space within Jesmond Dene Park to finance, design, finance, construct and operate a public BMX at no cost to the city.
If a BMX track was approved, it would supersede an unofficial existing RC track (i.e. radio control car) arena in the park. It would accommodate non-motorized bikes, and would consist of circular or serpentine tracks with jumps.
“We are looking for a high quality top notch facility,” said Petrek. “There is a range of quality of such facilities. We would want it to reflect Escondido’s high-quality standards.”
Little League Proposal
The amendment to the Mountain View Park master plan was needed to allow the Escondido National Little League Board to design, build and maintain a third lit baseball field, all through volunteer efforts.
The park has 23 acres; 11 are developed. It has two lit ballfields, one soccer field and three tennis courts.
The League has been active in Escondido since 1954 and recently played in the Little League World Series. The League has been playing at Mountain View Park since the 1990s. It is preparing designs for the new ballfield and will soon present them to city staff for review.
Any new facilities at the two parks would require both the Community Services and Planning commission approval, as well as final approval by the City Council.
City park development funds would be spent for lighting of the new field but grading, fencing and signage would be built by Little League, which would also maintain the field.
One man, the parent of a high school student, spoke to the board, expressing the view that the city should look into developing a swimming pool built to the standards required for
“I feel like my child, who is part of the high school water polo team and other high schools don’t have pools to swim in. As we look at parks and resources I might suggest that we look at some sort of pool that all three high schools could be part of so our kids wouldn’t have to leave the community to practice.”
Mayor Sam Abed responded that the city just spent $500,000 to renovate the Jim Stone pool at Grape Day Park.
Council members all support the BMX facility, although councilmembers Mike Morasco and John Masson have been at the tip of the spear for the idea.
Councilmember Ed Gallo said the additional ballfield would “would be a great addition to the park.” He was “all for discussing” the BMX facility, but thought it was a little bit out of town. “Kit Carson [Park] would be better, but that would raise another firestorm,” he said.
Councilmember Olga Diaz said “Jesmond Dene has always in my mind been the best place for a BMX track. I’m excited we are taking this interest in both parks.”
Deputy Mayor John Masson, who lives across the street from the park, said there is already an “unofficial” BMX track there. “I’d definitely like to move forward with this.”
Abed gave credit to Masson and Morasco for leading the way on the BMX facility, and invited them to move and second the motion approving the amendments.
Interest in the field house
In addition to wanting to discuss a BMX facility, several council members were interested in renovating the old “field house” on Jesmond Dene Park
The first to bring it up was Mike Morasco, who asked what might be done to restore the historic building.
Councilmember Ed Gallo called the old house “a gem for the city to take care of” and said, “We have to do something with that little house, because it gets tagged a lot.” He remarked that whoever paints over the graffiti must use “gallons of paint.”
Councilmember Olga Diaz said Escondido’s five Rotary clubs have talked about wanting a park facility to care for, as a meeting room and to celebrate the centennial of Rotary clubs in the city, which they will observe in about seven years.
She asked if city would need to revisit the master plan to allow the Rotary Clubs to renovate the field house, with each club sponsoring a different feature?
Petrek said the current master plan already calls for the building to be restored someday. “I don’t think it would conflict with the master plan,” he said.
Masson said, “I’m with the other members in moving forward with the field house. If we keep waiting it will get worse and it will fall down on itself.”
Mayor Sam Abed added that he too has been approached by Rotarians about the field house. “If the community wants the project, it should be looked at,” he said. “Let them propose what they want to do and I’m sure the master plan would accommodate it. To me the community drives the master plan, not the other way around.”