Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - February 7, 2014

Oak Woodland to make Bernal a real park

With the economy improved along with higher tax receipts, Pleasanton's long pause on municipally financed projects is over. The City Council Tuesday approved a plan to add more sports fields and create a wooded area to be called Oak Woodland on Bernal Community Park, a 318-acre mostly barren parcel where a lighted baseball field was built four years ago.

The project, when completed, will cost an estimated $16.5 million and is the first major capital improvement since a city freeze went into effect after the Firehouse Arts Center was completed. Part of the funding will come from a Bernal Community Park reserve that the city government has maintained during the recent recession when sales and property tax revenue tapered off. Another $810,000 would be available from a Capital Improvement Program reserve, also maintained by the city.

City Manager Nelson Fialho said he expects to receive another $3.2 million from the East Bay Regional Park District through funds approved by voters when they passed the district's Measure W bond issue.

That would still leave a funding gap of more than $5 million, which could be raised through a combination of fee assessments for users of the sports fields, contributions from sports organizations, corporate sponsors and a community fundraiser similar to the one that raised more than $1 million for the Firehouse Arts Center.

Although the major costs associated with this second phase of Bernal Park improvements are for added sports fields, they also include the city's long-awaited commitment to turn Bernal into a real park.

As shown in the schematic above, the Oak Woodland will extend from Bernal Avenue on the north to Valley Avenue on the south with a meandering creek running the length of the lushly landscaped trails, picnic areas and wooded open space. To the east will be three lighted baseball diamonds, including a stadium, and one informal baseball field that could be lighted in the future. Other lighted fields will include three for soccer, also with a small stadium, one for football and lacrosse, play areas and parking.

The Oak Woodland area is the grand open space at the heart of the Bernal property, occupying nearly 40 acres immediately west of the sports fields. It will provide a passive open space not found in many existing parks and will serve as a 800-foot buffer for homes on Oak Vista Way, the residential area where more homes and apartments have been approved for acreage between Valley and I-680.

Even with all the improvements approved this week and scheduled for completion next year, considerably more public Bernal parkland is still available on the southwest side of the site. Here's where we might see a small 4-H "farm," a community center and more trails and parkland to finally complete the Bernal Park land given to the city 14 years ago.

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