2012-07-12 / Front Page
Plans in place to finish Banyan Park
Residents agree on future of CRPD’s first property
For 45 years, the northwest section of the 7.4-acre neighborhood park next to Banyan Elementary School has remained undeveloped, sitting in stark contrast to its southern half, which features lush grass, benches, picnic tables and play areas.
Now Conejo Recreation and Park District wants to change that disparity.
Last month, CRPD’s board of directors unanimously approved plans to furnish the northwest portion of the park with an amphitheater, a shade structure, a sports court, a concrete pathway, benches and landscape features that include a butterfly and hummingbird garden.
The estimated cost of the park improvements, which are still several years away, is around $750,000.
“It will be a lovely, contemplative, peaceful place,” park planner Denise Johns said. “It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a walk in solitude or with friends.”
Banyan has a special place in the city’s history: It was the first property acquired by CRPD after the agency formed in 1964.
It was partially developed three years later.
“(The community) didn’t need as big a park back then,” CRPD general manager Jim Friedl said. “Then the population of the Thousand Oaks was about 22,000 people. . . . Now, it’s at 130,000.”
Finishing what began more than four decades ago is a group effort.
In September 2011, the park district held an on-site meeting that allowed community members to provide input on park plans. Over the next eight months, a seven member focus group selected by CRPD staff worked with Johns and other interest groups to develop a draft master plan for Banyan.
Focus group member Sharon McMahon said Johns helped the group turn their ideas into something tangible.
“We’d throw out clumsy thoughts (and) she made them into this beautiful, very professional sketch,” McMahon said. “I anticipate being able to bring my grandkids to the park at some point. . . . It’s going to be wonderful.”
As with most group projects, there were points of contention, said the mother of two.
“A group of people said they’d like a place they could let their dogs off leash,” McMahon said. “Other people, who live near the park, desperately did not want that. They were afraid it would bring in too many people from other neighborhoods (and) they didn’t want crowds.”
The final decision came down to a vote of community members who attended the meetings.
“(The dog park) lost by one vote,” McMahon said. “It was close.”
Dog park or no dog park, feedback on the plan was largely positive, said Tom Hare, CRPD administrator.
“It will add amenities to the neighborhood,” he said. “It was well-received.”
George Lange, the board’s chair, agreed, saying the people who spoke at the meeting were “100 percent supportive.”
“I’m eager to see the park develop and the neighbors enjoy it,” Lange said.
Still, the plan remains a work in progress, Friedl said.
“We have to get engineering and architectural drawings before we have (construction companies) bid. . . . That will take some time.”
Once specifics are finalized, the project will be included in CRPD’s 10-Year Capital Improvement Plan, a tentative timeline for future projects. Friedl said it will be difficult to predict exactly when the project will get off the ground but expects it will be some time in the next 10 years.
“We definitely want to get (Banyan Park) done, but there are some neighborhoods that don’t even have half a park,” he said. “If funding weren’t an issue, the project would go forward (right away).”