Improvements to two parks in Half Moon Bay have become the focus of revived fundraising efforts.
With more people outdoors during the pandemic, the city of Half Moon Bay and community groups have renewed interest in developing Carter Park and Frenchmans Creek Park, using a combination of state funding and individual donations.
The Carter Park improvement project continues earlier efforts by the city to “transform this park into a more active and utilized space” as set out in the city’s Parks Master Plan, which was finalized in January 2019.
At the same time, the citizens-led Friends of Half Moon Bay Parks and Recreation has focused its fundraising and planning efforts to repair a playground structure at Frenchmans Creek Park.
Here’s a look at each plan.
Last week the city submitted an application to the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s statewide park program to renovate Carter Park. The program aims at enhancing park and recreational access in underserved areas.
The city first applied to the program in 2019. At the time, it did not win any funding. But Deputy City Manager Matthew Chidester said he is optimistic the city has a better shot this year. The earlier attempt taught city staff that the program funds “shovel ready” projects, meaning construction is likely to begin.
“We were not shovel ready in 2019. We are now,” Chidester said.
Chidester said the project has completed several environmental review and permitting steps it hadn’t in 2019. The new application asks the state for $4.2 million. The project is estimated to cost $6 million, $525,000 of which has already been spent design and permitting.
The proposed improvements to Carter Park include a trail through the park’s redwood grove, a playground and a permanent outdoor stage. Historically, the park has been used primarily for theater productions.
Sedrick Mitchell, the state parks department’s deputy director of external affairs, said the statewide park program often funds one project for every eight to 10 applications received.
“Parks and recreation, especially during the pandemic, is a respite for people…” Mitchell said. “Our applicants seem to recognize there’s still a great deal of interest.”
The main challenge Mitchell has seen from applicants is finding creative ways to gather public input on the project, a critical piece to any project proposal.
“Some had questions about whether or not the community would be involved. We certainly want that to always be part of the program. It’s the public’s money,” he said. “They should have input on a park they’ll have to live with for many years.”
The city’s application for Carter Park includes the public input that goes back to 2016 when the city embarked on creating its Parks Master Plan. Beginning in 2018, the city worked with a hired architect to set up a booth at the Summer’s End Music Festival to collect ideas from park goers.
Currently, there is nothing budgeted for Carter Park so state support is key. But the city is also making plans to partner with the Friends of Half Moon Bay Parks and Recreation to fund some of the improvements through private donations. The city is currently working on an MOU to formalize its relationship with the group that it will put before the City Council in April.
Shahrzad Pantera, a member of the Friends of Half Moon Bay Parks and Recreation said the group is looking forward to working with city staff on revitalizing parks in the city.
“The parks need our support,” Pantera said.
Frenchmans Creek Park
For the Friends, however, opening the playground at Frenchmans Creek Park is the priority. This is a shift from its previous years-long efforts to create a community pool.
“The pandemic has made us stop and refocus, and has made us rethink how we’re doing business and what our community needs are,” Pantera said.
Focusing on the playground came from concerns that there were no play structures for children on the eastside of Highway 1. The play structure purchased by the city for Frenchmans Creek Park seemed like the perfect opportunity.
According to Pantera, one piece of the play structure was completely removed, making it unusable. The only playground is at Alsace Lorraine, which is accessible only by car for kids on the other side of the highway.
Friends estimates the play structure repairs will cost about $40,000, which it will have to fund entirely through private donations. It recently sent out mailers and as of Tuesday morning raised $10,000.
The community fund drive reminds Pantera of the origins of Friends, when financial hardship forced the city to dissolve its police department and its parks department.
“Once again with COVID, we find we’re in another situation where, here we are, we’re relying more on the community.”
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