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Sprucing up the Rec Center: La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group pitches in to prep for reopening

Members of the La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group meet via Zoom on June 24.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The La Jolla Recreation Center isn’t yet reopened after closing in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but its administrators and advisers are preparing for its return to service. The La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group discussed Rec Center maintenance and plans at its June 24 meeting.

RAG member Gail Forbes said she and a few other members, along with their children, volunteered June 20 to clean up the Rec Center grounds at 615 Prospect St. as part of I Love a Clean San Diego’s Creek to Bay Cleanup event.

RAG member Lizzet Fitz Cluster said the volunteer crew swept, weeded and did a walkabout of the grounds, with disappointing findings.

Forbes said there was “evidence of human habitation” at the Rec Center, along with a “lack of trimming and unmanaged regrowth” at the west end of the building. “It was good we went and dug around there,” she said.

The Rec Center appeared to be “in really poor condition,” RAG member Jill Peters said. “There was human waste there; we’re pretty sure someone was living on the front porch. It was not a great situation. The backpack I found in the back of the bushes had not been touched in months.”

Peters said “there were leaves, weeds growing above the level of hedges. Somebody had been spraying with Roundup but leaving the weeds that had been killed in place. I was really disappointed with the level of maintenance. This wasn’t three months of debris; this was longer than that.”

Fitz Cluster said “the following day, I did see a couple of people from the city working on the Rec Center.”

City parks and recreation area manager Rosalia Castruita said: “We’ve been short-staffed. The playground, because it’s not being used every day, the weeds are growing like wildfire. We’re working on them as we speak. A lot of our staff are reluctant toward coming in and being exposed to these elements.”

Castruita said she’d “put in a ticket for spraying weeds in the shrub area” and added that the city does not use the
herbicide Roundup but a “mild chemical” alternative.

“It’s been a challenge to continue running the maintenance that we’re used to during this COVID situation,” she said. “We’re slowly coming back to making sure [the center looks] as presentable as possible.”

Following the addition of pickleball lines to the newly resurfaced basketball court in March, Castruita said the city “did not approve of the work” and there will be another layer of asphalt laid over the courts, and the lines for both basketball and pickleball will be repainted.

“It will be within the next few months; I don’t want to give a timeline,” Castruita said. She noted the courts currently are not in use, with temporary fencing up “to protect the curing of the asphalt.”

Though the city is allowing youth sports to be played on some city rec center grounds, no reopening guidelines have been issued for adult sports, Castruita said. So even if the fencing around the pickleball courts comes down, they could not be used.

The La Jolla Rec Center remains closed to adult and youth sports and all other activities, according to its assistant director, Shane Masek. “Nothing is going on right now ... to keep it safe,” he said.

Castruita said the center may reopen in July but that the city is waiting for guidelines from the county.

RAG Visioning Committee moving forward

The RAG Visioning Committee, which is circulating plans for a major renovation at the Rec Center, is back to meeting regularly, “presenting to local community groups to drum up support,” said Peters, a committee member.

The presentations have generated “productive feedback,” Peters said, and she asked RAG members to attend future presentations “as a show of support.”

She said the committee is working on marketing materials such as a website and logo, establishing infrastructure for collecting donations and moving ahead with a project that entails vacating Cuvier Street to add more land to the Rec Center.

The Visioning Committee of the La Jolla Recreation Center Advisory Group presented plans for a complete transformation of the Rec Center at its monthly meeting, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. The proposal, which encompasses four years of work, will cost about $6 million and has an estimated completion timeline of three to four years, once plans are approved and finalized. What originally began as a quest to renovate the Rec Center’s old, non-ADA compliant playground, quickly grew to include a rehabilitation of the entire Rec Center grounds, including its historic building.

RAG Chairwoman Mary Coakley Munk said she wanted the Visioning Committee to speak with San Diego City Council member Barbara Bry’s office before a presentation to the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board in July.

“It’s important that we know the city procedure [for vacating a street] so there aren’t any surprises as we move forward,” Munk said.

Forbes said she wanted discussion at a future RAG meeting about the Visioning Committee itself.

“As we are shifting our focus, I think we have achieved a vision which is now being communicated,” Forbes said. “I think we’re going to have to create a separate action committee. We’re past the point of vision and need to have a select committee that does the rest of the work. We have to figure out which organization is going to sponsor this and bring it forward. If we’re separating the fundraising from the approval process, then we need to get clear on that also.”

Munk agreed to add the discussion to the agenda for RAG’s next meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 22.

For information about La Jolla Recreation Center activities, call (858) 552-1658 or visit bit.ly/ljreccenter.