City getting set to rehabilitate Estuary Park

City getting set to rehabilitate Estuary Park

Dave Boitano
Estuary Park

Estuary Park is getting set for a makeover. Photo by David Boitano.

Plans are underway to convert a weed-infested dirt lot in West Alameda into fields of dreams for the city’s youth sports teams.

The City Council took the first step toward the rehabilitation of Estuary Park on Tuesday night by hiring landscape design firm Verde Design to begin creating the look of the park, on a $174,000 contract. The total cost of rehabilitating the fields has been estimated at $2 million.

The existing sports fields, which have fallen into disrepair, were used by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard for recreational sports and have been transferred to the city.

Plans call for the eight-acre parcel off Singleton and Mosley avenues to become home to a long-sought synthetic, lighted turf field for youth football, soccer, rugby and lacrosse. The park would also include a baseball field, a playground, restrooms and group picnic areas.

The new facilities are needed to accommodate increased demand for fields by the various sports groups, Amy Wooldridge, Alameda’s director of parks and recreation, said during an interview Tuesday. Parks department officials must oversee assignment of fields for team practices and games - fields which cannot always accommodate everything the teams need, Wooldridge said.

"They (teams) don’t always get everything that they want, but everybody gets something," she said. "So it (the new field complex) would be utilized."

A parks plan accepted by the council in 2012 said that the city is short three baseball fields and five multipurpose sports fields - a disparity that would grow as Alameda's population increases.

Estuary Park’s new field would be the city’s first regulation-sized football field for youth teams, which now practice in the outfield of existing baseball diamonds, increasing wear and tear on the turf. The new field would also provide a venue for lacrosse and rugby teams; demand in those sports has increased locally, according to a city staff report.

Plans for a multipurpose field were stymied when Alameda voters turned down Measure C in 2012, a proposed sales tax increase that would have paid for a new field, a swimming pool, an emergency operations center and other items. The city refinanced existing bonds to fund a new emergency operations center and has offered to pay for a $1.9 million renovation of the Encinal Swim Center. Renovation of the shuttered Carnegie Library - another item the tax was supposed to pay for - could be handled by the Pacific Pinball Museum, which is negotiating a lease with the city.

A few months before voters rejected the sales tax measure, the council nixed a proposal from Harbor Bay Isle Associates to swap the city-owned Mif Albright golf course for funding and land for sports fields.

Funding for the Estuary Park renovation is expected to come from donations and the Measure WW regional park bond.

Youth sports groups will be invited to provide input on the field’s design, along with the city's Recreation and Parks Commission. If the project proceeds without problems, construction could begin this fall - though Wooldridge said that would be an aggressive timeline.

The Estuary Park plans came as good news to Ron Matthews, who is president of Alameda Little League and the Alameda Wolverines Youth Football and Cheer. A synthetic field is needed because rain renders the current fields unplayable for soccer and other sports, Matthews said.

Youth sports backers were disappointed when Measure C did not pass, he said. (The Harbor Bay proposal split the city's youth sports community.) Other communities have built multipurpose fields, he said, but Alameda's youth sports teams sometimes do not get the support they need from civic leaders.

“The youth of our community have been pushed back on the list of priorities behind golf and just about everything,” Matthews said. "We’re that last ones. It’s almost a disgrace that it has taken this long."

Matthews said he is working on a grant proposal to the National Football League which could bring in some field construction money.

Council members confirmed Tuesday night that the baseball field would be designed to accommodate disabled children who may play in a new Challenger Little League program that would be managed by Alameda Little League. A separate group has long sought the creation of a Miracle League field for the hundreds of disabled Alameda youths who can't play on traditional youth sports leagues.

"At last count, there are 300 kids in our town who would have trouble accessing our fields and our teams. I just wanted to remind you about those kids," said Roberta Rockwell, who has led efforts to create a Miracle League field."We have a remarkable opportunity with a synthetic field happening, an opportunity for us to work together to make sure those kids have access to those fields and those teams."

Wooldridge said providing the rubberized surface the Miracle League plans included could cost between $100,000 and $150,000 - a number she said was a rough estimate. Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said she wanted Rockwell's group - which also contracted with Verde for its conceptual designs - to be included in the planning for the new field.

"It's pretty exciting to think about getting this park up and running," Ezzy Ashcraft said. "I didn’t realize we had so much potential field there. You have to have a little bit of imagination to see it, but it’s definitely possible."