La Jollans are behind new San Diego Parks Foundation

The newly formed San Diego Parks Foundation, while ultimately created for the benefit of park spaces across the City, has its roots in La Jolla.

The board-of-five tasked with getting the Foundation off the ground is comprised mostly of La Jollans, and the model is based on how the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group operates.

“Here in La Jolla, we have La Jolla Parks & Beaches and donors who help us get stuff done, but not every place has this,” said Ann Dynes, LJP&B chair and San Diego Parks Foundation board member. “There are meagerly maintained parks that have the potential to be a lot better. But in the City (with the exception of La Jolla and Balboa Park, which have 501[c]3 Foundations), there is no real sustainable way for the average person to help out with park improvements or upgrades.”

Projects LJP&B have under their auspices include: Whale View Point, which thus far has facilitated installation of sidewalk along Coast Boulevard and Wedding Bowl landscaping; the Children’s Pool Plaza, set to open later this year; the Scripps Park restroom facility, set to break ground next year; and more.

Noting the “unbelievable things” organizations in La Jolla have accomplished with the help of a Foundation, Dynes said she questioned why there wasn’t a similar system for San Diego’s parks, and she reached out to San Diego Parks & Recreation director Herman Parker to establish the San Diego Parks Foundation.

“I think he was thinking the same thing, because he was in support,” she said.

A small board was convened to file the articles of incorporation, establish a website, draft legal documents, create bylaws, determine its grant process, recruit additional members and more. The board currently consists of Dynes, La Jolla landscape architect Jim Neri, La Jolla attorney Elisabeth Eisner, Balboa Park conservancy member Katherine Johnston and park advocate Marcella Bothwell .

The articles of incorporation were filed Nov. 8.

The next steps are to expand the board to 10-20 members of park enthusiasts “from Rancho Penasquitos to San Ysidro” Dynes said, and to establish a development process to collect donations and assess needs.

“We need work, wealth or wisdom, so we can brainstorm ways to raise money and awareness about the Foundation, and create a process by which San Diego Park & Rec can tell us the needs they’ve been told about, and we’ll need people to grant things out. If we have a certain amount of money, what projects can we fund?” Dynes explained.

Board member Neri has plenty of experience executing parks projects, evidenced by his longtime involvement with LJP&B and Friends of WindanSea, and he brings that insight to the new Foundation. The benefit of a Foundation, in his experience, is it cuts the wait time for necessary projects.

“If a park is deficient in that they have a broken slide and no funding to repair it, that area’s Rec Council could come to the Foundation with that need,” Neri said. “It might not cost much, but the Foundation can pay for it, as opposed to waiting for the City’s Park & Rec Department to find the funding, or waiting for the funding to become available.”

But it all starts with awareness.

Neri added: “Awareness of the new Foundation will spawn ideas for improvements within existing parks and possibly some out-of-the box thinking about what a park is within a community. People will be aware of an avenue for getting something done.”

Dynes said in addition to geographical diversity, she wants to see diversity on the board in terms of ages and use. “We want to see the next generation of successful business people and philanthropists, whose kids are using City parks, to be board members and move this forward,” she said. “San Diego is full of successful young people who’ve started businesses … this would be a beautiful fit for them.”

The Foundation would also provide a mechanism for people to bequeath their inheritance to the Parks of San Diego through its “legacy” program.

“We need an estate lawyer to join our board so we can get the message out because this is a wonderful legacy opportunity,” Dynes said. “Imagine making a lasting difference to City parks for perpetuity! It’s such an exciting concept for me.”

The board’s next step is to establish a website, but those interested in more details, may e-mail Dynes at