With the passage of in 2008, Martinez voters approved a $30 million bond to build a new , , and fix up the parks. So far, people seem happy with the pool and the library, but some folks are not at all happy with the way at least one park renovation project is going.
For the past two weeks, has looked more like a vacant dirt lot filled with rubble than a park, as earth movers and dump trucks cut into the once-verdant soil to level off the hillside property and make way for new playground equipment.
The project is going to be accessible for people with disabilities, as required by federal law, but to make that happen, city officials say that the park, which has a long and treasured history, has to be completely redone. And that is not sitting well with some.
One person objecting is Bill Wainwright, former city councilman and the great-grandson of the man for whom the park is named. He noted that of the 47 trees removed during the renovation, four of them were olive trees planted by his great-grandfather, James Rankin, and donated to the city.
“There were some beautiful old olive trees hanging over the benches,” Wainwright said. “Of those six trees, two are remaining. It’s a terrible thing they tore them out. Don’t see how they needed to do that for ADA compliance.”
Park, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission chairman Dylan Radke said the trees were inspected by an arborist, who determined that they were burned out, diseased and required removal.
“We are replacing those trees with twice as many mature trees,” Radke said. “The park is going to look beautiful when the work is done.”
But Wainwright was not convinced.
“Olive trees don’t get diseased and infected,” he said. “Those trees were in good health.”
“So the grand park we had is no more, to be replaced with a run of the mill playground,” said Mark Garris, who said he grew up near the park. “It was a gift to Martinez to prevent this kind of development from going on. It wasn’t just a gift to do what the hell you want with.”
Garris said the city “snuck in in the middle of the night” with no notice to the community that the work was going to take place.
City Engineer Tim Tucker responded that the plans for the park have been discussed at length with the PRMCC. He added that the renovations are necessary to bring the park up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.
“Obviously we don’t want to grade an ounce of dirt,” Tucker said. “But we’re required to make site ADA accessible.”
He said similar grading will soon take place at Hidden Valley Park, as the city begins that renovation project.