by Kelly Zhou
The city’s flagship park is expected to open at the Tustin Legacy by 2016, a 31.5-acre, $13.1 million endeavor that will include more than 20 sports fields and courts, a veterans memorial and a skate plaza.
The plans have been in the works for more than a decade, following the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) base’s closure in 1999. As an active sports park, the site will have lighted fields, similar to Tustin Sports Park and Columbus Tustin Park.
Some neighbors are excited for a park in their backyard, and coaches are eying more room for their teams to practice, to contend with constant demand for fields at the city’s parks and schools.
The Tustin City Council unanimously approved the park master plan on June 17. The park will be located at Valencia Avenue, between Lansdowne and Severyns roads.
As the project moves toward, what can residents expect from this park?
BALLS AND BACKFLIPS
When the city held the first workshops in 2004 and 2005, the severe need for a sports park in the community became apparent.
As sports became more year-round, instead of dedicated to a particular season, demand for fields increased in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said city Parks and Recreation Director David Wilson.
“I think that was the driving factor (for this park),” Wilson said. “You would sign up for soccer and expect a certain level of participation, and there weren’t enough fields. Coaches would find out there weren’t enough fields to have the practices, and struggled for game time as well. This is really to meet expectations of solid youth sports programs.”
This park will include four multi-use soccer fields, which can be used for lacrosse and cricket. There are courts and fields for softball, baseball, basketball, tennis, pickleball and sand volleyball as well.
A decomposed granite jogging trail, fitness equipment, playgrounds and an above-ground skate plaza will fill the outskirts.
The city plans to hold community workshops for the veterans memorial and skate plaza features in the fall, so that those who would be most likely to use the sites – veterans and skaters – can give input.
The features come with an estimated price tag of $13.1 million, according to the master plan report from the city’s architect firm MIG.
With artificial turf on the soccer fields – a feature coaches support – the price could grow to $16.2 million.
To compare, the four sports fields and four basketball courts at Irvine’s Great Park were part of the $22.8 million South Lawn development that also included a new visitor center, a redone historic timeline, ping pong tables and a milelong walking path.
FOOTBALL WITH THE GRUNTS
Even before the Marine base closed, this site hosted sports games. There was baseball, soccer and a football field, along with the officers’ club and dormitories, Wilson said.
If you knew a Marine at the base, you could go over, said North Tustin resident Mike Peterman, 48.
Peterman, coaching director for Tustin Western Little League, would play pickup basketball games there in 1989.
Goalposts and lights – remnants of the football field – can still be found there, said Matt West, the city’s Tustin Legacy project manager.
“This park has really fallen in the tradition of what was there before,” Wilson said.
Plans for the park began in 2004, but the economic recession contributed to a delay in plans until recently. Two more workshops were held in February and March this year, and the Community Services Commission approved the plan in April.
The land is in the process of being conveyed by the Department of the Navy to the city, and is expected to be completed in the next 18-24 months, West said. The Navy is still treating soil and groundwater contamination in one portion of the park site, caused by previous military maintenance activities. The groundwater is being treated and discharged, West said.
The county has plans for a separate 84.5-acre regional park with the northern hangar, which would sit kitty-corner to the city’s sports park.
The county’s plans for the park are on hold, pending a structural assessment of the hangar, which endured a partial roof collapse in October 2013.
WHAT’S THIS ABOUT DOGS?
Nearby Columbus Square residents have pushed for a dog park on the site since this year’s first community workshop in February.
“There are many people with dogs – more dogs than kids,” said Columbus Square resident Adriana Perez-Monje, 40, at the February meeting. “We have small patios and side yards, and I think people need a place to have dogs run safely.”
By the second workshop in March, a neighborhood petition in support of a park garnered 229 signatures, representing at least 205 dogs.
The suggestion was later nixed, since there isn’t enough room on the current plan for a full-sized dog park and because nearby kids at Heritage Elementary may share use of the fields.
Wilson had said a dog park may be incorporated elsewhere on the planned “linear park,” a 170-acre green stretch connecting the entire Tustin Legacy.
Councilman John Nielsen brought up the idea again at the June 17 City Council meeting, saying there is a “definite need” for the park.
The master plan was approved on Nielsen’s condition that city staff look at the idea again.
Now that the master plan has been approved, the plan will go back to the Community Services Commission to reconsider input about the dog park.
If the dog park were included at the sports site, it would have to be a smaller facility, Wilson said.
Following construction documents and environmental reviews, the project will go out to bid, and construction is estimated to start by summer 2015, Wilson said.