Committee approves list of priorities

Restrooms and skate plaza top recommendations
By: Margaret Snider, Special to the Loomis News
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The Loomis Parks, Recreation and Open Space Committee has come up with recommendations for elements to the new downtown park, and a water feature did not make the cut. The park is taking shape next to the Loomis Depot, where Koch Excavating, Inc. has started construction. Committee members first voted to recommend to the Town Council that the possible features be prioritized, with restrooms first, the skate plaza second, and a water spray feature third. After further deliberation during the Feb. 22 meeting, it was recommended to eliminate the water spray feature. The main reason cited was the waste of water and its usability in the hot summer months only. Decisions still must be made on use of funds for the remaining features. A number of youth and adults in favor of the proposed skate plaza were among those in attendance. “Skateboarders are young, they’re active, they’re itching to get out,” said Wes Davis, who grew up in Loomis and whose father, Steven Davis, is on the parks committee. “They’re going to be there every day, it’s going to drive a ton of traffic into that area … The younger kids can come, the parents can come, everybody can spend a large amount of time in downtown and not feel that they’re being isolated or being chased away.” Others expressed a contrasting view. “I have 13 grandchildren and I would love to be able to bring my grandchildren here (to the new down park),” said Kathy Jibson. “I see my aged parents who enjoy being able to watch the young children in the park. I think they would also enjoy the atmosphere at the spray park.” “My concerns as a retired law enforcement officer are the element that will be brought to the park if there is a skate park plaza there,” said John C. Bailey, Jr. “When I say element I’m talking about drugs, I’m talking about alcohol use, I’m talking about illegal tobacco use, and I’m talking about unsupervised youth.” Other issues brought up against the skate plaza included graffiti, vandalism and liability issues. Committee members pointed out that the plaza would be used for more than skateboarding. It would also be useful as a site for a variety of performing arts, including plays and music. Walt Scherer, a Loomis councilman, suggested control of expenses by use of volunteers, an idea that was supported by many others present. “Community participation can … build a greater sense of connectivity as we grow and develop,” Scherer said, “rather than losing it and expecting the government to take care of everything for us.” Another issue that arose was money for open space, or passive parks. “I’m concerned that we’re depleting all of our money that would go for what appears to be mostly an active park,” said Irene Smith. “What’s left for open space?” After the public comments, committee members stated their own feelings and ideas. “I’m glad you’re here to speak up and say the truth,” said Paulette Emert. “It’s obvious to me, if that money can only be spent for parks, recreation and open space, then let’s find things to do with that money, and the park is one.” Town manager Perry Beck said the first phase, which is now underway, must be completed by June in order to utilize the $220,000 in state bond funds for the $466,910 project. Development fees paid to the town will cover the remaining $246,910 balance. Completion of the base work — which includes clearing and grading, concrete and electrical work, erosion and sediment control, fencing, landscaping and construction of a tot-lot and shade structure — is expected in May. Committee members attending were Paulette Emert, Kathryn Seers, Shawna Martinez, Allen Newton, Tom Seth, Jennifer Knisley, Nancy Beck, Hillery Wallis and Pat Miller, the chairwoman. The meeting was the last for Miller, who has been appointed to the town’s planning commission. She will be succeeded as chairwoman by Nancy Beck, with Jennifer Knisley serving as vice chair.