Thursday, July 9, 2009

HONORING WALTER CAPPS : Park could open in 6 months to a year


July 7, 2009 7:23 AM

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission will face an important decision Wednesday regarding the future of Walter Capps Memorial Park.

Meeting at 9 a.m. at the County Engineering Building on Anapamu Street, commissioners will take up among other items the environmental review for the open space, which the commission will either approve or reject, according to project planner Ray Severn.

Mr. Severn expects approval will come easily because the use of the vacant lot in the 6600 block of Del Playa Drive, will not change significantly when the park is developed.

"They are minimal changes so the review will be just a brief," he explained. "There will be minimal environmental impact from the improvements."

The park would be named after the beloved former senator and UCSB professor, who died while in office.

"This is just a memorial to him," said Mr. Severn. "This is a nice thing because federal and state monies were used to buy the land."

Juan Beltranena of the county Parks Department explained that the park will represent that which Mr. Capps represented.

"There are two sides of the park: active recreation and a meadow, and a boardwalk will figuratively connect the two," said Mr. Beltranena. "An inscription on the board will have a quote."

The quote on the boardwalk will read, "We are strongest as a people when we are directed by that which united us, rather than giving in to fears, suspicions, innuendos and paranoias that divide."

Susan van Atta is responsible for the park's design.

It will include restroom facilities, paths and open space for recreational activities.

"It's a very simple park," said Mr. Beltranena. "It's quite a charming composition, to tell you the truth."

Mr. Severn explained that another positive that he draws from the park's improvement is that it will be permanent open space.

"There were narrow parcels that were purchased for this open space," he said. "It will take away from the development of the land."

If the park is approved by all authorities involved, Mr. Severn expects that it would still take another six months to a year to be opened as the official Walter Capps Memorial Park.

"The next phase will be to do final engineering," he explained. "It will take some time to do that."

Because a portion of the park is in the coastal region, the project will also have to go through the Coastal Commission, which could prove to be a lengthy process.

"Due to budgetary constraints, their staff has been reduced," said Mr. Beltranena. "Their ability to put things through is very compromised right now."

Another project-extender is the cost of construction for the restroom and walking paths.

"It may be a year, or even more depending on the funding," said Mr. Severn, "because they don't know the total construction cost."

Mr. Severn is a planner for Penfield & Smith, a company contracted by the county for the project.

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