PRMCC recommends priorities for park projects

MARTINEZ, Calif. – When the Martinez City Council addresses the city’s 2019-21 Capital Improvement Projects Hidden Lakes Park’s restrooms should top the list of park improvements, the Parks, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission decided Tuesday.

Commissioner Richard Patchin urged the panel to recommend the restroom overhaul as the first of the list, and others agreed they needed replacing before other projects are undertaken. Estimates suggest this could cost about $450,000 to complete.

While some questioned the need to replace lights in Ignacio Plaza, Commissioner Rob Parolek explained that the lamps have become a public works maintenance problem that could be solved for $68,000.

Patchin agreed, describing how youth have been seen climbing the poles to remove the lamp globes to play with them. “They’re easily vandalized,” he said.

Another project would be to complete the information panels at Susana Park, a project that could cost as little as $15,000 but likely would take plenty of staff time in deciding what type of displays they should hold, said Michael Chandler, deputy director of Administrative Services.

Another recommendation replacing playground equipment at Cappy Ricks Park, estimated at $125,000.

Chairperson Dylan Radke strongly urged the city upgrade Field 5 at Waterfront Park. Like some other members, he was not happy to see Field 3 upgraded to a professional-level baseball field as part of the $8 million renovation of the Martinez Waterfront Park.

Improvements to Field 5 could be seen as compensation to residents for Field 3’s redesign, he suggested.

Unlike the other projects, the field construction might not be funded through Measure H park bond revenues or from money saved when a volunteer effort renovated Hidden Lakes’ ballpark.

Instead, funding might come from Martinez’s per capita share of Proposition 68 money, Chandler suggested. The city will get at least $200,000 in per capita funds. While it’s seeking other Prop. 68 grants, Chandler said the number of parks in the city as well and the income level of park neighbors may reduce the city’s chances to be awarded more money.

No estimate has been given for the field improvement. “It needs to be scoped,” Chandler said.

Other projects that could be included in the Capital Improvement Projects list are an arch entry sign marking Waterfront Park’s DiMaggio Ballfields and repairs to the park’s concession stand, including fixing its leaking roof.

In another matter, Vice Chairperson Karen Bell-Patten expressed disappointment in estimates of dog park usage, a report by Recreation Supervisor Kara Galindo.

The temporary park is in its second year, and uses the picnic area of the Waterfront Park amphitheater, which has gotten light usage in recent years. The dog park closes for cleanup before and after amphitheater events.

The city has used sign-in sheets to tally usage, and Galindo said not all users bother to record their visits. The park gets used the most on Sundays, and people take their dogs there usually after noon. Most patrons are from Martinez, although some people drive in from Crockett, Pacheco, Pittsburg and Pleasant Hill.

There were only two incidents of aggressive dogs last year, she said, and dog owners were advised to notify Contra Costa County Animal Control Services.

“I’m a little disappointed with by the numbers,” Bell-Patten said. “it’s disheartening, because people supported it.” She suggested the city has spent $50,000 on a “private dog park.”

Daily use has been as high as the mid-40s about a year ago, dropping to fewer than 10 a day in February, although Galindo suggested weather might have affected those numbers. Some who signed in noted rainy days.

She said some park users have experienced “sign-in fatigue,” although Radke suggested that if users want to prove they want the park, they should, indeed, register their uses.

Parolek reminded the panel that dog park advocates and former City Engineer Tim Tucker worked hard to find a suitable place for a temporary park. He noted the area had been run down and under-used, and the presence of dog owners at the park has reduced vandalism.

Chandler said ongoing upkeep is fairly inexpensive, with Public Works employees spending just two to four hours a week on the park’s maintenande.

Galinda said her department would be making head counts during spot checks, which would give less frequent tallies but more accurate numbers than the sign-in sheets have produced, although Commission members suggested installing turnstyles or placing someone to log participants using a counter.

In other matters, the panel heard three reports, one on the Martinez Library, one on the Martinez Marina and the third on the city’s State Trust Land Use Plan related to the city’s use of the Martinez Waterfront Park.

Manager Noelle Burch said Contra Costa County libraries have 3.1 million visitors a year, and of those, 90,000 went to the Martinez library. Besides the traditional function of lending books, it offers programs so card holders can view up to eight movies a month, sign up for free museum and special event admittance, learn a language through Rosetta Stone and take advantage of other offerings.

It’s resuming its program of offering free lunches to school children three times a week starting June 10, when school is out. Along with food, the children also are provided special programs or activities.

Other special events and programming are available to youth and adults, she said.

In an attempt to improve the relationship with cardholders, Contra Costa County libraries no longer charge late fees, although patrons still must pay if a book or other item is lost or damaged, Burch said. That has increased library usage, she said.

The Commission also heard from Almar Chief Operating Officer Jim Hayes and Martinez Marina Harbormaster Olivia Ortega.

Slip revenues are up so far this year, $280,419, compared to $262,069 that had come in during the same time last year. This year’s revenues are ahead of the budgeted $271,500, and Hayes said that’s due to the latest dredging of silt out of the marina.

Bait store income, budgeted at $62,868, is $74,398, better than expected but slightly lower than last year’s $80,344.

Total revenues were expected to be $423,627, but are higher, at $435,627, an improvement from last year’s $428,528.

Expenses are below the $350,323 budgeted, at $344,582. Cash flow, at $90,046 so far this year, also is better than the $73,383 budgeted.

The marina is a popular place for boat cruise-ins, the marina’s car show, its swap meets and Allied Services’ compost giveaway and its most popular event, the annual fishing derby, Ortega said.

Chandler said the marina is continuing to be a topic of City Council discussion, with some members expressing reluctance to continue to pay for dredging until the breakwater that should help redirect silt is repaired or otherwise made more effective. Another concern is whether the city can continue operating a marina of this size.

Community and Economic Development Director Christina Ratcliffe gave the Commission a brief update on the city’s State Trust Land Use Plan, which must be submitted to the state before the end of the year.

A public workshop before the end of June will give residents a chance to learn about the plan and provide their comments, she said, community comments.

Among the uses under discussion is a ferry that could go between Martinez and Antioch to reduce traffic on California Highway 4. Other transportation questions would be how to get ferry travelers to Martinez’s downtown area.

While the plan will tell the state Martinez’s intent for Waterfront Park and the Marina, that now has been handed to the city in the form of a trust, the document isn’t set in stone, Ratcliffe said, and it can be modified through the years should the city consider better uses for the land. In addition, the state is interested in seeing Martinez’s commercial plans for the area, since California expects a share of revenues.

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