Parks and Desiccation
Seaside’s neighborhood park groups get creative as city resources dry up.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
The growl of chainsaws echoed through a blue-collar section of Seaside on the morning of Sept. 14 as crews cut down five eucalyptus trees in a half-acre city park.
This wasn’t originally city officials’ idea; the Martin Park Neighborhood Association asked them to do it. “The trees presented a significant liability,” says Norman Yassany, the association’s secretary.
Eucalyptus limbs had already fallen on a car and several nearby roofs, he says, and the trees’ toxic leaves killed most of the vegetation the neighbors had planted three years earlier.
The city agreed to remove the trees if the neighbors would replace them at a ratio of at least two-to-one. Yassany did them one better, submitting a blueprint for 16 replacement trees – liquid amber, maple, pistachio, elm, sycamore and pear – and clean soil to plant them in. The city’s Board of Architectural Review was scheduled to review the plans Oct. 3, past the Weekly’s deadline.
Mayor Felix Bachofner asked city staff to be deliberate in their review, as tree planting in Laguna Grande Park – done last summer to discourage soccer games on the turf – drew significant criticism. “As a matter of public policy, it’s important to vet these kinds of planning decisions publicly,” he says.
But the city’s generally supportive of its neighborhood volunteers as parks funding withers. The Martin Park group has raised $250 of the $1,300 it needs for its project. (Disclosure: This reporter contributed $20 to the effort.) Seaside Garden Center is providing steeply discounted saplings, Martin’s Irrigation Supplier donated drip equipment and neighbors are doing much of the work.
The project reflects a growing resourcefulness among Seasiders working to beautify their parks as city funding dries up.
Just up the street from Martin, Highland-Otis Park is going through a more expensive makeover. In partnership with the city, the Highland-Otis Park Neighborhood Association has raised $60,000 in grants over the past two years for ADA-accessible paths and playground equipment. A bocce court and picnic area are also in the works.
The neighbors have been pursuing a redo of Highland-Otis Park for several years, but it’s been slow going. In the down time, they weed the park’s landscaping. “It’s pretty complicated and our group is pretty frustrated with the delays, but it looks like things are starting to happen now,” organizer Carol Mikkelsen says. “I’m learning patience.”
Neighbors have led similar beautification efforts at Durant-Farallones, Beta and Neil Mescal parks. Volunteers also provide elbow grease for a public native-plant garden at Fremont and Canyon Del Rey boulevards and a community vegetable garden on Lowell Street and Obama Way. (The city has no role in the latter, which is on private property.)
“[Volunteers] know what is needed in their neighborhood. It’s been a real positive relationship, and yes, it’s growing,” Deputy City Manager Diana Ingersoll says.
The city needs all the help it can get right now. A reorganization this fiscal year resulted in the layoffs of five parks and public works workers and the demotion of the former parks supervisor, Ingersoll says. The remaining parks and public works staff are cross-trained to do one another’s jobs. (The city’s also down to just one planner.)
Water is another limiting factor. The city regularly brings a water truck by Highland-Otis Park to help get the drought-tolerant plants established; in Martin Park, without such help, neighbors sometimes stretch their hoses to feed the landscaping.