Boosting the city’s parks and recreational space should be a priority for La Cañada Flintridge, the Planning Commission concluded this week while working its way through the general plan update.
According to city planner Fred Buss and the draft general plan documents, the parks plan would call for a reevaluation of facilities it operates under a joint-use agreement with La Cañada Unified. For example, soccer fields could possibly be constructed on the Southern California Edison easement, or on similar non-developed public space in the city, Buss said.
The city has reached a goal set out in the 1980 general plan to provide the community with 10 acres of public space for every 1,000 residents, boasting 345 acres currently available for approximately 21,000 residents. However, that number includes large, non-developed open spaces, including Cherry Canyon in the Flintridge hills and Beckley Canyon in the upper Alta Canyada area. The developed parks and joint-use recreational facilities total just 26.1 acres.
Planning Commissioner Rick Gunter said that the trails system and other open spaces are valuable, but that the city needs to provide residents with more developed parkland as well.
“I think counting those trails and those open acres is appropriate for who we are and who we want to stay,” said Gunter. “But I think developed parkland spaces have a different value from an open parkland space. They both have different values, and you need both.”
Gunter said that while the commission has seen data indicating that the population of La Cañada is aging, a slight demographic shift isn’t reason to disregard parkland.
“While [demographics have] changed somewhat, there are still some serious needs in this community for activity spaces,” he said. “Ball fields, for example, are used by people from 4 to 70 — it’s not just Little League.”
Buss said the proposed plan would function like the city’s Trails Master Plan, bringing focus and making the city more able to bring its resources to bear on the problem.
“If the Council agrees with that, they’ll adopt those policies … we’ll have some direction and some motivation, and we’ll be able to use that process to develop a formal plan for how to get parks in the city,” Buss said.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner James Kambe said he fully supports any effort to increase the city’s parkland.
“I feel we’re in desperate need of park space,” said Kambe. “Real estate is at a premium, and we just don’t have the park space normal cities do. It’s a tough situation.”
Kambe said that with AYSO soccer, La Cañada Junior Baseball and other youth sports programs, the city’s parks are booked. In fact, he said, some parents are taking their children to baseball programs out of the city where they can play year-round.
Kambe said that he would be happy to help implement a plan that increases the city’s parkland.
“We’re continually updating, we’ve got a living document that is our parks plan,” said Kambe.
For Gunter, the goal is just to provide all residents with public spaces and amenities that are worth enjoying.
“Many of the developed parks we have aren’t well cared for. It’s important to use the general plan to make them vibrant, well-used spaces,” said Gunter. “I would argue we need more amenities for the older groups, not less for the younger … it’s not swapping one for the other, but providing for both.”