The Pittsburg City Council has approved a preliminary plan for an $8.5 million renovation of the downtown City Park along Railroad Avenue pending a state grant.

The 28-acre park, the first public park created by the city, was established in the 1920s on land that was originally used as a plant nursery. Early reports showed the park featuring an aviary, petting zoo and bandstand. But over the years, the park “has been loved to death,” according to Kolette Simonton, assistant director of economic development and recreation.

City staff began work on plans for the renovation project in November and conducted two community design meetings, five focus groups and two community advisory meetings to solicit ideas for a long overdue makeover.

“First and foremost, residents said keep all the ball fields,” Simonton said.

Respondents submitted nearly 100 suggestions and indicated several locations for amenities in the park, ranging from a plaza and additional athletic courts, to jogging/walking paths, improved concession stands and restrooms, additional open grass areas and seating. Also popular were safety improvements, such as lighting and irrigation upgrades.

The city is seeking funding from a Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program grant. The application must be submitted by March 12. No matching funds are required.

Planned amenities at Pittsburg City Park are shown in an artist’s rendering. (Image courtesy of the city of Pittsburg)

Simonton and Gina Chavez, the planner from RRM Group in San Leandro who oversaw the renovation plans, outlined the facets of the proposal, which includes relocating the bandstand to the center of the park, moving and upgrading the concession stand and restrooms, improved disability access, new spectator areas, a new dog park, a new pump track, improved irrigation, upgraded lighting and security cameras, upgraded picnic and barbecue areas, relocated basketball courts, new trails, a teen plaza and added parking.

The city’s most recent park renovation application to the state for Buchanan Park under Proposition 68 was rejected.

Mayor Merl Craft asked Simonton at the March 1 council meeting if the fencing design would allow for “an open park design,” adding her concern that “right now it’s a great place if you don’t want to be seen.” Chavez emphasized the plan’s features on enhanced security measures.

Simonton added the following day, “We continuously add improvements within our parks, but this is of a much greater magnitude.”

The council voted 5-0 to support the plan grant application.