By Chris Stone
Youngsters frolicked in water jets. Some did soccer drills and Hula Hoops. Giant chess pieces engaged others.Saturday’s opening of Civita Park filled a long recreational need in Mission Valley — turning an old gravel quarry into a grassy paradise.
Stressing the importance of social engagement, local leaders and businessmen celebrated the opening of the 14.3 –acre park at Civita Boulevard and Russell Parkway, just north of Friars Road.
“Parks and open spaces defines us in San Diego,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said before cutting the ribbon in the heart of Mission Valley.
“Parks are where we make memories,” Faulconer said as a crowd of more than 100 people gathered to try out amenities that include an amphitheater, plaza, game area, picnic tables, community garden, dog park, basketball courts, five exercise areas and walking paths in its first phase.
“It’s really, really nice,” said Sharon C., who lives in the Serra Mesa section of the Civita development.
“It’s really pretty. They’ve done a nice job on it. It feels like a very safe place for people to come.”
Festivities on Saturday morning featured soccer drills, games on the grass, musicians and food trucks.Besides Faulconcer, speakers included San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts,; former Mayor, Jerry Sanders; Tom Sudberry, chairman of Sudberry Properties; Glen Schmidt, president of Schmidt Design Group, Inc.; Pastor Troy Singeterry of City View Church; and Marco Sessa, senior vice president for land development/residential for Sudberry Properties.
Roberts said, “This is going to be the heartbeat of the community. … Socializations will make this a far stronger community, allow neighbors meeting neighbors.”
“This should be the standard for a lot of new developments,” Roberts said of the city-owned park that took 18 months to build.
The Civita development is home to 3,000-4,000 residents in an area that borders Friars Road, Mission Center Road and Phyllis Place on the north, said Mark Mark Radelow, vice president of development for Sudberry Properties.
The community garden will have 38 plots of land, and a lottery system will determine who will be the first gardeners to use them. A 1956 Porsche tractor parked outside the garden attracted children.
Rainwater from the Civita community will be channeled to create waterfalls at Civita Falls and travel into Civita Creek.
A recreation center is expected to be open this summer.
On June 14, a military tribute area will be opened, honoring all branches of the military with flags and plaques.
After the ribbon cutting, children ran onto the 48-jet “splash pad,” a cooling area with numerous water fountains for children to play in.
Herman Parker, director of Parks and Recreation Department, said, “It creates one of those great gathering spaces and that’s what parks are all about.”
The second phase, which goes to bid soon, will include two playgrounds, a bocce ball court, a “Mining Relic Terrace” with historic mining equipment and a Caterpillar D8 bulldozer and three gardens featuring native plants and ones that attract butterflies.
The playgrounds — one for children ages 2 to 5 and one for 5- to 12-year-olds — will have rock-climbing walls, rope bridges and spinners.
A future museum will explore the influence of the San Diego River on the city’s history.
The park was designed by Schmidt Design Group, Inc., landscape architects for Waterfront Park Downtown and Liberty Station, along with over 200 park and recreation facilities in San Diego and the west.The firm has won 11 Orchid Awards in San Diego and over 100 local, state and national design awards.
Sessa of Sudberry Properties said the firms continue to work with the San Diego Unified School District to get a school built.
In addition, construction on a reclaimed water treatment plant is expected to start this summer, Sessa said. It will supply water to keep the grass green.
The park, a public-private partnership between the City of San Diego and Sudberry Properties, sits atop a former sand and gravel quarry.
In the early 1900s, Franklin and Alta Grant bought land along the San Diego River, hoping to find oil. Instead, they discovered rock and the family mined the quarry for about 70 years, according to Wikipedia.
The Grants’ grandchildren decided to turn the family property into a walkable village. They partnered with Sudberry Properties, a longtime San Diego developer to do so.
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