South City debates park plan 

A broad spectrum of community members turned out at City Council chambers Wednesday night to offer their input on how Orange Memorial Park could be changed for the better.

Youthful artists, skateboarders and dancers joined soccer and baseball players in championing their interests to be represented in future improvement plans for the city’s flagship park.

The city is currently in negotiations with Cal Water, a water service provider, for six acres to the northwest of the park, City Manager Barry Nagel said. Before they press ahead for state or federal funding, the city wants to create a plan to better its chances of being awarded money to update the park. To help create that plan the city is collecting community opinion on how the potentially 26-acre park should be configured.

The community members debated whether or not to have one-sport dedicated fields or multi-use filds that could see soccer or baseball action. Other issues included the potential use of synthetic turf or lights at the fields.

There are no cost estimates yet for the suggested improvements because the overall plan is still in its infancy.

The city is already in the process of building a new 6,200-square-foot recreation facility at the park to replace the old 3,100-square-foot space. In March, the project cost jumped by $2.1 million to $6.44 million due to a controversial costly design.

But with limited space and limited funds, sports fields sometimes win out over other interests such as a small performing arts facility at the park, said Sharon Ranals, South City’s Director of Recreation and Community Services.

The city held Wednesday what was most likely its last workshop to gather opinions on the park plan before it begins the public hearing process in front of the Parks and Recreation Commission and ultimately the City Council.

"It is hard that you can’t fit everything in," Ranals said of a dance troupe saying they felt unequal to baseball or soccer because there was no new facility for them. "I wish we could’ve."

Mike Pizzo, 55, dubbed himself a soccer guy but also said he was a realist. He said the best option had only one soccer field amongst several ball fields but with each field having one dedicated use. The alternative included two soccer fields but had one of them cutting across an outfield shared by two baseball fields.

"In [Option] B, everyone has a specific place to be," Pizzo said. "Everybody’s going to take ownership of what they have."

Marcella Jimenez, 41, said she would like to ensure that the fields could be used year-round and that there was ample parking. Parking would be "huge" because spilloverinto the surrounding residential areas would upset neighbors, she said.

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