By John D. Bennett
MOJAVE – Residents will be able to get their first look at proposed improvements for Mojave East Park on Friday. Kern County is seeking money for improvements through a grant program established by the Clean Water and Parks Act, Proposition 68 and will hold a meeting to discuss the progress at noon in the park.
After three meetings, Kern County General Services Manager for Parks and Facilities Matt Howard said a number of options have been presented by members of the public including improving the existing splash pad.
“That splash pad design is so outdated,” said Howard. “They make so many cool things now like turtles with water shooting out of them and rock walls that look like waterfalls. There’s just no sense in moving it, so we’re going to try to incorporate that right there. The intent for this would be year-round - not water year round obviously - water during the Memorial Day to Labor Day period. But then after that the kids can still play on it. It’s still going to be interactive there. It’s just not going to have the water features coming.”
The county property management team has also begun discussion with the Mojave Unified School District regarding the Little League field. Essentially the field was built half on county land and half on district land, making improvements problematic if an agreement can’t be reached.
“The Little League group really wants a secondary field,” said Howard. “But we’re going to tell them, they need to talk to the school board about that, because we would be improving so much, especially since it’s non-county owned property at that point.”
Howard said the county was hoping to improve the existing field and get new bleachers, a scoreboard and a new concessions stand.
“We want to put walking paths throughout the park,” said Howard. “We’re playing with the idea of putting exercise equipment along the path. The other idea is to do a separate area with a variety of workout equipment next to the tot lot or play equipment. So it’s really going to be up to the park designer on how they can incorporate that desire from the community.”
A skate park is also being considered for one corner of the park.
“Keeping all the trees not taking any trees out,” said Howard. “We also want to put up some more shade structures, not just over like large group areas, but smaller areas as well. So that people that want to sit in the sun cannon, and people that want some shade can have some shade as well.”
An inclusive play structure that is not only interactive, but also American with Disabilities Act compliant is also on the wish list.
“We also want to improve the basketball court,” said Howard. “Not just have a basketball court, but a multi sport court, where a variety of different sports can be played volleyball, it can be handball, basketball. We probably would keep it there, we would just have to re-address the irrigation issue because right now the irrigation is irrigating the court and we don’t want that to happen.”
Better lighting in the park and improved bathrooms were other improvements voiced as important. Residents have expressed concern over the distance to the bathrooms from the baseball field, especially at night when the lighting is inadequate.
“We would try to put up another bathroom closer to the ball field,” said Howard. “Depending on the sewer systems is and how the space was allotted.”
A temporary option would be for the county to provide portable toilets for use during the baseball and softball seasons.
“They maintain the key to during the season so kids don’t have run across the park,” said Howard. “They do that in Rosamond. They have an agreement with the county and they brought in special bathrooms just for Little League games.”
One possible sticking point regarding improvements to the bathrooms is that the grant being applied for is recreation-based.
“They do allow for bathrooms, parking lots, and you know, irrigation, but they don’t want that to be the focus,” said Howard. “They only want that to be about 10% of the overall plan. So if it’s something we can include, absolutely we will do that.”
The Parks and Facilities division is seeking grants for a total of five parks county-wide.
“If we don’t get the grant funding to do this, we’re going to go after it again as part of the secondary round, because the criteria is going to be the same,” said Howard. “The state has indicated in their application process, they will not know where the shortcomings were and why you weren’t chosen. So hopefully we can address those in the next round.”
Park Planner Don Woodard is the one tasked with coming up with the concept plan for Mojave East Park.
“So he will come with the concept plan that will share with everybody,” said Howard. “Based on that meeting will say, you know, yeah, move some things around or no, this is great. Or hey, can we add this. And we may be able to come up with a list of the other options that didn’t have as much community input. But people said, ‘Hey, we’d like to see this and have those options for fill-ins here.’ We still want to leave the park the park, we don’t want it to be like so grand that we can’t maintain it.”
The California Statewide Development and Community Revitalization Program grants will be awarded in amounts up to $8.5 million. A series of public meetings to determine community interest and get input for improvements is a required component of the grant process.