Renovations breathe new life into Brand Park picnic area

A neglected picnic area at Brand Park has been attracting more visitors following the completion of the third phase of an ongoing, $50,000 makeover spearheaded by the city, according to park ambassador Stephen Webber.

As part of a refurbishment project launched two years ago, the city’s parks department installed new picnic tables and a sprinkler system, in addition to removing ailing trees and replacing them with new ones, according to Koko Panossian, Glendale’s deputy director of community services and parks.

“At least a few more people will be able to have their picnic,” said Webber, adding that the main picnic area was often completely full by 9 a.m. before the project wrapped up in December.

Last week, Webber said he saw visitors throwing a large party in the revamped area near Brand Library and Art Center.

“That was one of the main motivations [behind the project], to give those people more opportunities for a nice picnic,” Webber said.

For the next and final phase of the makeover, the parks department plans to repave and make aesthetic improvements to a nearby road that leads into what many people refer to as the “old day camp area,” Panossian said, adding that he hopes to have a contract in place for that project by this summer, at which point the road work can begin.

Webber, who has lived in Glendale since he was 18 months old, was appointed the park’s ambassador in the summer of 2015 to be the city’s eyes and ears for the park, as well as to meet and greet visitors.

During a meeting in November 2016 with Glendale’s parks director Onnig Bulanikian and then Mayor Paula Devine, Webber expressed concerns about the picnic area’s poor condition and roof repairs that were needed at a nearby children’s restroom.

At 8 a.m. the next morning, there were roofers repairing the restroom, Webber said.

The picnic area project was more complex, requiring the replacement of the site’s broken irrigation system. It kicked off about six months later.

According to Panossian, Webber “did play a big role, identifying his concerns,” in addition to several other community members, in inspiring the parks department to pursue the project.

Final touches on the third phase were finished a few months ago. A gate that obstructed access to the area was unlocked, and nearby curbs were changed from red to yellow to allow visitors to drop off picnic gear, Panossian said.

Because the improvements went beyond the scope of typical park maintenance, the parks department could not fund all of the work at once. Instead, it broke the project into phases and secured funding for them one at a time, he said.

“That allowed other sites to get the same love and care, and diversify the resources, to make sure we do everything we are supposed to do,” Panossian said, adding that his department oversees 46 facilities that all require maintenance.

As “leverage” during his 2016 meeting, Webber said he quoted instructions left by the park’s namesake, the late Leslie Brand, to keep the park in immaculate condition when he deeded it to the city.

“Basically, he gave us the green light to take good care of it,” Webber said, adding that he is always advocating for additional improvements.

Besides the ongoing picnic area rehabilitation, the city is in the process of budgeting and planning rehabilitation of both of the park’s restrooms, Panossian said.

This past summer, the park’s trails were refreshed. In January of last year, a team of Japanese garden experts flew to Glendale to work side by side with local staff to improve the park’s Japanese tea house and garden.

“A lot of love is being given to Brand Park,” Panossian said.

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