Ojai parks and wreck: Some facilities to get a much-needed facelift

Aug. 20, 2013
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent

If all goes according to plan, Ojai’s parks are about to get a facelift. In a joint meeting with the Ojai City Council last week, Ojai’s Parks and Recreation commissioners discussed a five-year capital improvement plan that would add new facilities and revamp several others.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to put some money into the facilities,” said Deputy City Manager Steve McClary.

Among the top priorities in the city’s five-year capital improvement plan are a remodel of the restrooms at upper Libbey Park; a new playground at Libbey Park; a remodeled picnic area at Sarzotti Park; a renovated art room at the Boyd Recreation Center and replacement of picnic tables and benches around the city.

Topping the docket for the upcoming fiscal year is the construction of a new outdoor basketball court at Sarzotti Park.

“We’re really focusing on trying to get our existing facilities repaired where they need to be,” said McClary. “However, we’re also trying to look down the road a little bit, because we’re seeing some potential opportunities  — maybe this fiscal year, maybe future fiscal years — where we could put in some additional facilities, for example.”

“One of the things we’ve never really had is a five-year program,” observed Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Randy Haney. “We’ve never really had anything identified as to how we’re going to identify the facilities. That’s just come recently. Just starting with that, and the fact that we have some revenues set aside, the fact that we recognize that the facilities need to be upgraded and maintained differently is a bonus … It’s a great starting point. I’m glad we have it.”

For Commissioner Sage Intner, long-term planning is just the first step in manifesting a richer Ojai Recreation Department, the hub of which, she believes, is Sarzotti Park.

“I think long term we’ve all wanted to work toward longer-term planning, and having a capital improvement plan over a five-year span has given us the time and opportunity to go in and literally, physically go into Sarzotti and take another look at it,” said Intner. “I know staff time is precious, and that may be something that we butt up against over time. Maybe we need a little more staff time or additional help bringing that to fruition so that we’re not just drawing pictures on paper for ourselves, but putting together maybe a little more of a plan from these ideas. But I think the beauty of what we’re doing is: We’re talking about putting in a picnic area that’s covered, which is fabulous. But let’s go a step farther and look at that park. What do we want it to look like, what do we want that whole park to look like five years from now when we’ve done three projects?”

“The picnic area/pad at Sarzotti refers to creating an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible picnic area in the park along with a canopy for shade,” explained McClary. “We feel this will make the picnic/barbecue areas much more attractive for use by the public, similar to what folks are able to enjoy now at Soule Park.”

In a similar vein, the items regarding facilities at Libbey Park are meant to dovetail with one another, with the goal of improving the overall feel of the park. For example, while the playground at Libbey Park remains in visibly good repair, the construction of a brand-new shade structure, funded by the Rotary Club of Ojai, could theoretically mismatch or even constrain future renovations of the existing playground structure.

“We’re very pleased that the City Council and the Parks Commission are supportive of reinvesting funds back into our recreational facilities,” said McClary. “This year will allow us to catch up on a lot of deferred maintenance which the facilities desperately need.”

The Ojai Parks and Recreation Commission meets at 6 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at Ojai City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St. in Ojai.

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