Above left to right are: Interim Recreation Director Ed Mount, Councilmember John Procter, Vice-Mayor Jenny Crosswhite, Mayor Martin Hernandez, Councilmember Ginger Gherardi, Interim Public Works Director Brian Yanez, in the front, helping cut the ceremonial ribbon, were all the children waiting to be first on the new playground equipment.

Las Piedras Park: Playground, last piece of recreational puzzle, completed

March 09, 2016
Santa Paula News

A long-awaited project, the rebuilding of the playground at Las Piedras Park destroyed in 2014 by arson, was dedicated last week, the last piece of the recreational puzzle for children in the neighborhood of the expansive 13th Street park.

And they were ready to play at the March 1 ribbon cutting, but the children patiently sat on the sidelines waiting for the speeches to end before they tackled the new attractions.

The total park project said Interim Public Works Director Brian Yanez, “Has taken three years and $1.5 million,” with replacement of the playground an unexpected but insurance-covered expense after a 13-year-old boy torched it.

The boy has since gone through the county’s juvenile justice system.

Yanez said the park has been improved with new soccer fields and lighted basketball courts. 

“Santa Paula has five lighted courts,” said Yanez. “I can’t think of any other city that has five…”

The new playground features old favorites and new attractions ranging from play stations with slides and a balance beam to climbing wall, spinning chair and merry-go-round and other equipment designed to not only entertain but to provide healthy exercise.

A new rubberized surface that springs slightly underfoot has replaced the recycled tire mulch, providing an easier cleaning surface and improving drainage.

R.E. Construction Services utilized the $232,000 insurance payout to replace the playground.

The park now has two separate playground areas and suitable equipment for children 2 to 5 years old and 6 to 12 years old. 

The interactive Born Learning Trail created by First Five of Ventura County, United Way and the City of Santa Paula is nearby, dedicated late last year in honor of Dr. Lisa Solinas, a physician with the Ventura County Healthcare Agency.

Mayor Martin Hernandez, Vice Mayor Jenny Crosswhite and Council Members Ginger Gherardi and John Procter attended the March 1 dedication, as did longtime Recreation Commissioner Bill Grant. 

“It took a long time,” said Grant, “but it’s finally done now,” a process expedited by the council which had urged that the playground replacement project be a top priority.

Hernandez noted he and Procter met with members of CAUSE 18 months ago to address the need for the playground and the impact the loss had on area families.

Now, “We’re making sure children have what they need to be strong and smart…”

Israel Ruiz, a 10-year-old Barbara Webster School student, waited patiently for the ceremony to end although he already knew what he wanted to try.

“I want to ride the springy thing first,” Israel said as he pointed out the shiny new seat waiting for someone to enjoy it.

“That’s the picture,” said Gherardi who pointed out the children swarming the new equipment.   

City Capital Projects Engineer John Ilasin, who helped the council in accelerating the bid for the project, was busy explaining the advantages of the “resilient flooring” now holding the playground equipment.

Crosswhite was admiring the pattern of the flooring: “There’s paths and grass and water…I can’t wait for the kids to make up games,” using their imaginations for what is underneath their feet.

Procter was having as much fun as the children as he tried out the balance beam and slides.

“This,” he noted, “is very cool…”

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