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‘We want doers’: La Jolla Parks & Beaches makes call to action to focus on community projects

La Jolla Parks & Beaches Vice President Brenda Fake, President Bob Evans and former President Ann Dynes
La Jolla Parks & Beaches Vice President Brenda Fake, President Bob Evans and former President Ann Dynes attend the board’s meeting June 27.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Spurred by the will to put passion into practice, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board is refining its focus to be more project-driven and bring motivated members of the community into the fold to help carry out those projects. To help do that, the board formed a working group to draft a list of projects big and small along the coast.

During a directors development workshop June 1, the board discussed its mission, how it can improve operations and what it should focus on, LJP&B President Bob Evans said.

The private workshop was “what I hope will be a call to action,” Evans told the board during its public meeting June 27 at the La Jolla/Riford Library. “I’m trying to think big and at a really high level … as to what we can do as La Jolla Parks & Beaches. We need to act like, or become like, a conservancy or a friends group or a foundation and work under a plan of action that can be mutually agreed upon by directors, the city of San Diego and the community.”

But that comes with challenges, he said. “The main problem we need to address is that … coastline parks and beaches are deteriorating, deferred maintenance is increasing, the city’s funding gap is widening, simple day-to-day maintenance of the grounds goes largely unmet. The city cannot be relied upon to deliver the services we once expected. But that’s where we can fit in. We can make a change in our little part of the world, and that can start today.”

To do that, Evans said the board would explore gaining a long-term right-of-entry permit for Scripps Park to execute minor repairs and projects beyond what the city can do, expanding its fundraising and grant-writing abilities, partnering with other community organizations to pool resources on projects, documenting its processes so they can be handed down to future board members, and more.

But the first step, Evans said, is a change in mindset. “Instead of thinking that we are assembled here with our own likes and personal agendas, we should work together with obligations to serve past, present and future generations and serve the parks and beaches themselves.”

He added that several ideas for projects came up during the workshop, including painting the fences in Scripps Park, reviving the memorial bench project that was once run by the city, repainting some of the belvederes (gazebos) along the coast, evaluating the parks in the board’s jurisdiction to determine their needs, increasing trash can service and more.

“We want to find projects we can wrap our arms around and get started,” Evans said.

LJP&B Vice President Brenda Fake said the call to action extends to other members of the community as well. If something “gives you energy,” she said, you are welcome to attend meetings and join a working group for that project.

“We need people to pick up the ball and start moving it forward,” Fake said. “There are people on this board that I have had great dissension with but I have great respect for because they are out there moving the ball forward. Then there are those that sit along the sidelines. We can no longer afford to be a fragmented group and a fragmented community.”

Under that model, projects can be run by individuals, working groups or the whole board.

“We want doers,” Evans said.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches board members meet June 27 at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Fake, who also is the head of Friends of Coast Walk Trail and facilitates cleanups and repairs on the trail, said: “The process can be hard, but you can do it. … If you haven’t gotten involved, this is a great chance to get involved and learn. You will learn a lot about the city process. You may not like it, but … the city wants to fix stuff, too. But they are constrained by their own resources.”

A working group was formed to create a list of projects across La Jolla and present it to the community so those who want to work on a project can volunteer.

“I’m trying to think big and at a really high level … as to what we can do as La Jolla Parks & Beaches.”

— Bob Evans, LJP&B president

Over the years, LJP&B has facilitated several projects in more of a piecemeal approach.

Among them is the 2018 completion of Children’s Pool Plaza, which took eight years and involved removing some landscaping, replacing and expanding the sidewalk to improve pedestrian flow and adding sitting walls and bike racks to the area overlooking the Children’s Pool at 850 Coast Blvd.

The board also shepherded construction of the new Scripps Park Pavilion restroom facility, which opened earlier this year. The facility has more single-stall unisex toilets, benches, outdoor showers, disabled-accessible toilets and indoor showers, and storage for beach equipment.

A smaller project to refurbish a weathered flagpole at Union Circle Park (at the center of Park Row) was completed in 2019, with nearby residents partnering with LJP&B and the La Jolla Historical Society.

Parks & Beaches also commissioned an engineering study of La Jolla’s 91-year-old landmark Children’s Pool, led by local engineer Matt Mangano, to determine its condition and needs. The Children’s Pool, which was funded by La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, opened in 1931 to provide a wave-free shoreline for children, protected by a seawall and including stairs down from the street.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches meets at 4 p.m. the fourth Monday of each month. Learn more at lajollaparksbeaches.org. ◆