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Rosita's renaissance: Renovated park boasts an array of upgrades

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier

A freshly renovated Rosita Park, above, will soon open to the public.

After several years of discussions and planning – and a couple of months of delays – Los Altos officials are ready to reopen one of the city’s renovated recreation areas, Rosita Park.

The 5.5-acre park – located at 401 Rosita Ave., behind Covington School – looks vastly different than it did a few years ago.

“It’s a fantastic and wonderful development,” Los Altos Mayor Ron Packard said. “It will be a real benefit to the Los Altos community.”

Finishing touches

With only finishing touches remaining, the renovations will significantly enhance the appearance and functionality of the park and the surrounding streets and neighborhood, according to Brian McCarthy, maintenance services manager for Los Altos.

Upgrades include three new tennis courts (two replacements and one additional), a concessions building with two restrooms, a storage area and a drinking fountain. McCarthy noted that the restrooms comply with Americans with Disabilities Act mandates.

Three fitness stations have been constructed at Rosita – all connecting to a multiuse pathway around the perimeter of the sports fields – and lighting and landscaping have been added to the parking lot to improve safety and traffic flow, McCarthy said.

In addition, there’s a new plaza in the park, with space to install a children’s play structure at a future date.

To facilitate safe access for students and park visitors, McCarthy said traffic-calming devices are placed at intersections on Rosita Avenue and La Prenda Road, a pedestrian/bicycle pathway between Arboleda Drive and Rosita, a bike lane on Campbell Avenue, a wide path on Rosita along the park and crosswalks nearby on Rosita. Parking areas, lighting, landscaping and irrigation have been updated.

Ailing camphor trees have been removed and replaced with low-maintenance plants and trees.

“Over 100 new trees, which included Ginkgo, Pistache, Red Maple, Ornamental Pear and Melaleuca trees, were planted on the site,” McCarthy said.

According to McCarthy, the irrigation and landscape installations followed the state’s Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance, mandated by California AB 1881. Due to water conservation requirements aimed at providing more efficient use of irrigation water, he said the irrigation system needed nearly twice as many valves and bubbler heads as it would have required in the past.

Compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit for Storm Water Discharges regulations mandated more extensive storm-water pollution and collection treatments for the park site. The park now boasts bioretention planting areas and associated drainage, deepened curbs and walls and permeable pavers.

The overhaul needed extensive soil grading to meet the requirements for Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant steps and ramps for the parking lot, walls, tennis courts and the plaza area.

“Completion of this project has changed Rosita Park from a utilitarian look to a beautiful community park with opportunities for a variety of users,” McCarthy said.

City officials didn’t plan the project by themselves. Rosita Park neighbors, Los Altos School District representatives, sports groups and members of several Los Altos commissions – from Traffic to Parks, Arts and Recreation – contributed to the process as well.

Construction began in February, but plans have been in the works much longer.

Approval and funding

After approving the Rosita Park Master Plan in fall 2009, the city council in October 2010 appropriated the estimated $2.2 million to complete renovations. Top Grade Construction of Livermore received $1.76 million, $426,000 was devoted to design, equipment, engineering and construction contingency fees.

The city’s Capital Improvement Projects fund, park-in-lieu fees and the postponement of a dog-park project covered the expenditures, McCarthy said.

Park history

Sept. 3, 1996, the city council at a special meeting voted unanimously to pay $6.385 million for the 5.5-acre St. William School situated on the property behind Covington School. The parochial school, located on the site of St. William Catholic Church at 611 S. El Monte Ave., closed its doors in 1995.

Funds to buy the Rosita property came from a combination of cash from reserves, a grant of $1.3 million from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a loan of $2 million from a city reserve fund and a long-term debt of $2.3 million from certificates of participation, similar to bonds.

“This was a good piece of land,” said David Casas, Los Altos councilman and former member of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees. “It was an opportune time for our city to extend our recreation facilities.”

A community swimming complex to replace the former Covington Pool was in the original plan for Rosita Park but is now part of the Civic Center Master Plan.

Later in 1999, the city made a land-lease swap for 50 years with the school district for the recently developed property in the park. The city has use of the site for the duration, after which the land reverts to the school district, according to Casas.

In exchange, the school district has use of a portion of land near the city’s municipal yard to store its maintenance equipment. School district officials hope to continue collaborating with the city for “long-term use of their properties for educational purposes,” according to Trustee Mark Goines.

“We offered land from our Covington School property to the Los Altos Parent Preschool,” he said.

The preschool, previously located on the Los Altos High School campus, reopened this week at 201 Covington Road, adjacent to Rosita Park.

Users eager for reopening

Although the preschool has its own play area, teachers and parents eagerly await the park’s opening.

“We are all very excited and anxious for (the park) to open,” said Mari Vargas, preschool parent-volunteer.

Shanon Pestrong, another parent-volunteer, said, “It’s been an amazing transformation.”

Jen Roy McGuigan sends her children to Covington School and often walks around the park and neighborhood.

“It’s gorgeous,” McGuigan said. “This will be great for the community.”

Young Son moved into the area with her family early this year and looks forward to a renovated park in her neighborhood.

“We are park-lovers and enjoy the outdoors,” Son said.

Sports in the park

Several soccer and baseball teams use Rosita for league games and tournaments.

The Los Altos-Mountain View PONY Baseball League has been playing at Rosita Park for more than a decade, and players, coaches, volunteers and parents are excited about the new amenities, according to Kevin Smith, league president.

“(Rosita Park) is the crown jewel of the fields we’ve used,” Smith said. “The dimensions are perfect for the PONY league.”

He added that LA-MV PONY looks forward to its next season at the renovated Rosita Park and hosting the Regional Championship Tournament there next summer.

Grand reopening soon

The project is nearly complete, McCarthy said, but not without a few hitches.

“Due to weather issues and some unexpected underground discoveries, the construction project is expected to be completed this month, with crews currently working on punch-list items,” he said.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be scheduled and posted on the city’s website, he said.

For more information, visit www.losaltosca.gov.

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