Mary A. Castillo The importance of Laguna’s...

Mary A. Castillo

The importance of Laguna’s parks is reflected not only in the time

and money invested by the city, but also, according to one of the

city gardeners, by the “regulars” he greets almost every day.


“We pretty much get to know everyone,” said Reggie Christian,

whose responsibilities include Heisler Park. Occasionally, those

regulars who walk the winding paths up above the surf dispense

gardening advice.


Residents frequent the city’s 18 parks, facilities and “pocket

parks,” which total 56 acres. Walking the dog, admiring a crystal

clear day or getting in those daily 15 minutes of cardio exercise,

the parks have become part of Laguna’s culture.

The most recent addition, Browns’ Park, was opened in July on

South Coast Highway overlooking Main Beach. The $450,000 project,

jointly funded by the city and the California State Coastal

Commission, will be adorned next Thursday with two new art pieces


created by students of the Laguna College of Art and Design.

The city spends about $700,000 annually in landscaping and

repairs, says Vic Hillstead, parks and buildings manager. However in

the fiscal year 2002-03, the city will invest $1.5 million in three

renovation projects, namely Heisler Park, Bluebird Park and Village

Green Park.

Last month, the California Coastal Conservancy awarded the city a

grant of $225,000 to begin planning a major renovation of Heisler


Park. The city matched those funds and hopes to complete the entire

project by 2007.

The plan will focus on conquering cliffside erosion and updating

the pathway for better handicapped access, Hillstead said.

Bluebird Park will receive new playground equipment, a restroom

facility and better handicapped access to the restroom, said Derek

Wieske, assistant city engineer.

The project, budgeted at $900,000, is currently under design and

construction drawings are being finalized.

“We anticipate going to the council in January or February,”

Wieske confirmed. If the project is approved, he hopes construction

will get started in March. A construction schedule has not yet been


Village Green Park in South Laguna is currently taking bids.

Weiske expects that bids will be in as of next week. The scope of

work, budgeted at $100,000, includes replacing cracked sidewalks and

play equipment and refurbishing benches and tables.

Hillstead, who has been with the city for nearly three years,

recognizes the community’s appreciation of its parks.

"[The parks] are much more heavily used,” he said, comparing

Laguna to Rancho Palos Verdes, where he worked previously. “Each one

takes a concerted effort to make sure the facilities are clean and


* MARY A. CASTILLO is a news assistant for the Coastline Pilot.

She covers education, public safety and City Hall. She can be reached