La Jolla Park & Rec board hears plan for skate plaza at Rec Center

A proposal to incorporate a “skate plaza” on the La Jolla Rec Center playground at 615 Prospect St., was presented during the La Jolla Park & Rec, Inc. (LJPR) board meeting April 26. The proposal was also offered from a booth at the Rec Center’s Spring Egg Hunt, April 15, which had reported attendance of 800 people throughout the day.

The skate plaza proposal has further been listed on a survey that went live April 15 at reviveljrc.org to collect feedback from the community on the various ways the playground could be improved. The skate park option was added later that same day.

Marnie Cheney, director of the High Tech High Foundation Board and a La Jolla resident who’s been part of the effort to establish a skate park in La Jolla since 2010, is spearheading the proposal. She said a skate plaza could be used by those in wheelchairs and those on skateboards, bikes and scooters. (Bikes are currently not allowed on the Rec Center grounds.)

“Our idea is to take out the existing younger kids’ playground where the swings are and put the multi-use skate plaza there, along with shade and trees,” she said. “The younger kids play area would be moved to where the grass is now to take some of that space.”

Although she said the skate plaza would not be “as loud as people think,” Cheney suggested placing the plaza on the side of the playground closest to Draper Avenue to minimize noise to residents. Representatives from the La Jolla Woman’s Club and La Jolla Presbyterian Church, located across the street, were not present to comment on the plans.

Regarding safety, Cheney said signs would need to be posted with the rules, and users would monitor themselves to ensure everyone wears appropriate safety gear, such as helmets. “A Rec Center staff person could be posted to supervise, but parents might also be there to watch and make sure everyone is being safe. These kids are older kids who can learn responsibility. I’ve seen it happen,” she said.

However, La Jolla Rec Center director Nicole Otjens said she used to work at a facility with a skate park and “I used every bit of CPR and First-Aid training I knew (to treat injuries).” And though the facility was supervised, she witnessed a five-year-old child being knocked unconscious. “But whatever the City wants to do is fine,” she added, “If it becomes part of our job to go out and supervise a skate plaza, that’s OK.”

Other board members voiced concerns about whether the La Jolla Rec Center is large enough to accommodate a skate plaza, basketball and/or sport courts, and two ADA-compliant play areas for two different age groups — a tot lot for toddlers and an area for older children.

At the Spring Egg Hunt, LJPR representatives set up a booth to inform families about the plans to renovate the playground and collect feedback. Acting chair Mary Coakley Munk said the booth had images of the Rec Center as it stands and plans for an alternative layout. The skate plaza idea was presented alongside as another option.

“Everyone who wanted to show anything was invited to do so and we had a lively discussion,” Coakley Munk said. To collect additional input, the website and 10-question survey were set up at reviveljrc.org

In the survey, questions such as, “How often do you visit the La Jolla Rec Center?” “What is the primary reason you visit the La Jolla Rec Center?” and “What changes would most improve the La Jolla Rec Center?” are posed.

Among the options available for changes to the Rec Center playground are: Keeping the current layout while updating the play structures and basketball court surface; adding a skate park with ramps extending into grass area; and combining both play areas for additional space and safety and direct line of sight.

At the LJPR meeting, when the survey had been live for just over a week, there were 39 responses. The board set a deadline of June 1 for feedback, after which point they will close the survey and review the results.

The board has been trying to collect community input on ways to improve the aging playground since late 2016. But only piecemeal ideas have come forward, such as the addition of shade structures and improved safety features.

The board also announced it would begin fundraising for the project and would seek major donors once a plan has been finalized.

La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. next meets 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 24 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. bit.ly/ljreccenter or reviveljrc.org

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