MOJAVE - Mojave East Park is one of five Kern County parks which could be getting a makeover through a state program. As with California City, the county is applying for a grant through Proposition 68, the Clean Water and Parks Act.
Matt Howard, general services manager for parks and facilities in Kern County was at the Mojave Branch of the Kern County Library for the first in a series of meetings about the project. 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.
“For the initial meeting what we're trying to do is to get a gauge from the community, what do you want to see here,” said Howard.
One of the unique challenges the county has already identified for Mojave East is the baseball diamond, which is actually bisected by Mojave Unified School District property.
"It's really bizarre," said Howard. "And so that was one of the things through this particular grant, we might have to figure out if this is going to be improved in any way, shape, or form."
In addition to improvements to the actual field residents at the meeting said improving the bleachers, including some sort of shade structure and possible wind breaks would be welcome additions.
"It's been awhile since my kids were small enough to be playing, but I can remember sitting there really getting almost blown away by the wind," said Doug Clipperton.
Multi-use options are gaining ground in park and recreation design
Converting the diamond to a multi-use field was also discussed with an eye toward soccer and other sports.
Howard asked about the popularity of skateboarding in the area, noting that the county is already working on improvements to skate facilities at other parks. The newer facilities are designed be multi-use for use by bicyclists, scooter and roller blade enthusiasts as well as skateboarders.
"I just want to emphasize that if we had a skate park here I am so certain it would be utilized," said Mojave resident Joyce Nash. "Like, we have kids who are really talented and they freakin' shred out there - right now they're using the basketball court."
Among other possible improvements talked about during the first meeting were additional shade structures and picnic tables for the park itself, power outlets, an outdoor exercise area, lighting for nighttime use and security cameras and the possibility of adding an additional restroom facility closer to the baseball diamond.
"We have two major things going on that deter use of our park in this area," said Ted Hodgkinson. "We all know what they are - the wind and the sun. Some sort of clamshell device would help block the wind and and block the sun."
As a member of the Mojave Unified School Board, Hodgkinson added that he thought the district and Mojave Junior Senior High School could work with the county regarding the baseball diamond area.
"You just have to go through the steps, talk to the district office and then the board with that," he said. "To transfer school property to another agency is a several year project - but working out a long term use agreement shouldn't be a problem."
As part of the grant process, there will be one more introductory meeting and county designers will put together some concepts for the park based off those meetings.
"We will bring the concepts back to the community, the community will then say yeah, this is great or no, why don't we flip flop these are move this around or take this off and put this on," said Howard. "Then we will have our finals design based off of all of your inputs."