MOJAVE – An artificial turf soccer field, renovated baseball field, upgraded concession stand and bleachers and renovated tot lot with shade structure and splash pad are a few of the proposed changes for Mojave East Park. Residents got their first look at plans during a meeting on July 19, Kern County is seeking money for improvements through a grant program established by the Clean Water and Parks Act, Proposition 68 an additional meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday outside the Senior Center at the park.

“There’s actually a group that play soccer out here, but they don’t have a place to play or a designated place to play,” said Kern County Parks and Facilities General Services Manager Matt Howard. “So we were considering making this soccer, obviously other sports can be used as well.”

The field would be located just east of the Senior and Veteran’s Center. Adjacent to the field would be a mutli-sport court for basketball and other court games.

“We’re considering cutting the multi-sport court in half, so it’s just one court and putting a little skatepark in there as well,” said Howard. “That’s not going to be this huge giant grandiose skate park, but something for those on scooters and skateboards to be able to recreate on.

“We also put an outdoor workout area over here, we put it next to the seniors, because they are the ones that expressed an interest in it. And we feel like if it’s over here, it will kind of be protected by them.”

The baseball field posed a unique challenge in that only half of the existing field is actually owned by the county. A property line extends, basically along the third- to second-base line and from that point east is actually owned by the Mojave Unified School District. Howard said county and district personnel are working out an agreement that would allow continued use and improvements.

“I talked to the little leaguers and they were actually the ones that suggested keeping the concession because that’s a revenue generator for them,” said Howard.

The grant is recreation based and also requires community involvement opportunities.

“So we’re incorporating that volunteers can come in and help organize and plant the trees,” said Howard. “We’re going to look at adding like a wind screen here out of shapes, to help block the wind that comes in off this area to kind of keep the group picnic area and everything has protected.”

A series of public meeting helped shape the design of the park and determine priorities.

“For the most part, everything that the people have requested have been incorporated into the design,” said Howard.

On the redesigned layout, the existing basketball court and tot lot would basically swap places, with each getting an upgrade. Inclusive play equipment for children with all types of mobility levels will be included in the new design.

“If we get awarded it is truly going to boil down to the inclusive play equipment and the actual design of the spray park,” said Howard. “Moving forward for us is year-round spray park - not year-round water - but year-round for the kids to be able to play recreate on.”

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

“It’s all point based at the state level, there’s additional points given to reach out to certain organizations to see if they would help or volunteer efforts,” said Howard. “So we’ve written reached out to them to say, ‘hey, if we get this money, can you help with this just to maximize the points?’  We’re doing everything that we can to maximize the points.”

The existing bathrooms would be demolished and new ones built in their place, but no additional bathrooms would be added through this grant.

“Adding another bathroom over here for that purpose is going to be lots of money,” said Howard. “And the grants not intended for that kind of improvement.”

Improving parking on the south side of the park is one of the other upgrades planned as well as a providing a walking path through the park.

“We put a walking path all the way around the outside,” said Howard. “There’s a crosswalk right here (State Route 58), so we would connect a walking path as well for those that are walking to be able to cut through.”

Even with all the proposed improvements, the cost of upgrades for Mojave East should be well below the $8 million mark, according to Howard. Kern County is also applying for grants for four other parks the county and it is a very competitive process.

“The state had thrown out a number at one of the workshops we went to that they’re expecting to receive over 900 applications,” said Howard. “So if you think about it, at the amount, if they awarded $8.5 million grant, they would only issue 29 grants, only 29 applications would be funded.”

Although not necessarily part of the grant, Howard said there are also plans to put in a split rail fence around the perimeter of the park to keep people from driving onto the park grounds themselves.

“One of the days I was here I saw cars parked on the grass over here,” said Howard. “It’s probably not the best for people to be driving on the grass.”

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