If you could make any change to Johnny Carson Park, what would it be? Would you add a slide that exits through a giant Ed McMahon head? Would you paint the restroom building a yellow-and-brown checkered plaid pattern, like one of Johnny’s suits from the ’70s?
Perhaps you’d like to see an updated Tonight Show vibe, and include a seesaw with the Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien logos at each end?
These are my ideas, anyway. I presented some of them last week to Jan Bartolo, Burbank’s deputy director for park services. Her department is looking for community input that will shape the park’s future — and from what she’s told me, everything is on the table.
“That’s all good, too,” she said after laughing at my suggestions. “You should come, too, and share your ideas… We want to be sure ultimately that the park is utilized and meets the community’s needs; so the new design represents the community.”
To kick off that discussion, representatives from the city and design firm AHBE will listen to suggestions at Providence High School’s Multipurpose Room, 511 South Buena Vista St., at 6 p.m. tonight. It’s the first of three meetings to piece together a draft of what the new park will look like — the other two are not yet scheduled.
To pay for the improvements, $2.5 million has been budgeted by the city; the parks department is applying for an additional $2.5 million in grants. Officials hope to break ground sometime next year.
From what Bartolo has told me, the new design will still operate like the old Johnny Carson Park, but new landscaping and sustainability will figure highly into the plans. There will still be the retention stream, though now that may disperse water back into the water table instead of dumping it into the L.A. River.
The city is also considering new energy-efficient lighting throughout the park, renovations to the playground and a new irrigation system.
The whole idea is to make the park more sustainable overall, Bartolo said.
So why Johnny Carson Park, and why now?
For one, it is a popular spot. Ten of the events held in this open area across from NBC Studios draw thousands of visitors each year — from the Road Kings’ 5,000-person car shows to the American Cancer Society’s 24-hour Relay for Life. That’s not counting the dog shows and group picnics, or the Lady Gaga fans needing a place to set up camp while they wait for her to exit the Tonight Show studios.
A park this popular needs the infrastructure to support such events, and Bartolo said that infrastructure is aging.
Add to that the parents who use the play equipment; the runners and exercisers; the Frisbee throwers and dog walkers — it’s a big job to coordinate the ideas and opinions of a community. I can’t wait to see what we come up with.
“We’re welcoming everybody regardless of interest,” Bartolo said. “Every suggestion on every level will be welcome.”
BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant to Burbank. When he’s not out playing Frisbee, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.