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Walnut Creek’s future swim and community centers at Heather Farm Park will be constructed on the current community center site, the Walnut Creek City Council decided unanimously Tuesday night.

The council agreed with staff and the planning commission that the community center site was the best of three options presented. It will be centrally located, allow key pedestrian areas and the playground to remain unaffected, and construction won’t affect swim season at the current center just to the south.

Council members said the site is the least-noisiest option for nearby residents and people using the park’s garden area. It will also maintain the community center’s view of the pond, which won’t be affected by the construction.

But the most important factor in not locating the project at the current swim center, which was one of three options, was that swim season won’t be interrupted.

“One of the things that really leads me to the community center site is the fact that, if you have a two-year construction window (at the current swim center), that means that’s two years where the kids don’t have city meet,” said Councilmember Cindy Darling. “They don’t have county meet, don’t have aquabears.

“This is going to be impacting the same generations that have been so impacted by COVID, and I don’t want to take anything else away from them at this point,” Darling said.

Bocce ball, anyone?

Councilmember Kevin Wilk said the current swim center site could accommodate more convenient parking and promote better area traffic flow. Plus, he said, it would be a great site for another activity the city covets.

“We’ve talked about bocce for how many years?” Wilk asked. “That actually would be a perfect area to potentially have bocce.”

The only downside to the current community center site listed in the staff report was it will require new utility installation and require more excavation for new pools.

Walnut Creek city leaders selected the site of the current Heather Farm community center for a new community center and pool complex. A slideshow of all three site proposals can be found online. (Image courtesy of city of Walnut Creek)

The council’s decision Tuesday was only conceptual. The third option was to build the facilities in the grassy area between the pond and the playground, which would impact current parking and the picnic area and impede existing pedestrian walkways.

The project now goes back to city staff to produce two design options for the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Commission to review, then send to the council for more feedback. Environmental review would come later as well.

As will the funding. The city will work with the Walnut Creek Aquatic Association to raise money for the construction of either a 50-meter or 25-meter pool. There will also likely be a smaller pool for beginners.

Finding the funding

A city report said earlier this year the future Heather Farm Community Center will cost between $20.59 million and $25.17 million. A future Clarke Memorial Swim Center would cost $16.6 million to $26.42 million, depending on size of the pools.

The council will eventually look at funding options, including fees on new developments, grants, community donations, user fee increases, lease-revenue bonds, public-private partnerships, and general or special tax increases. The report recommended the city conduct community outreach on potential funding.

This part of the Heather Farm project is the first phase of the city’s Your Parks, Your Future plan, initiated in 2018 and delayed by the pandemic. Civic Park and Shadelands Art Center are also on the list of facilities to potentially be upgraded. All were built in the late 1960s and 70s and were identified as nearing the end of their life spans.

The city also plans to design a 10- to 15-year master plan for Heather Farm.