Save our Sports Court Playground from the Wrecking Ball at Orinda Park!
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There are plans being presented to the Orinda City Council on March 6 after 8 PM in the Orinda Library Auditorium that will destroy our Sports Court Playground at Orinda Park. All four plan options demolish the sports wall and associated concrete playground. This is a tragic misread of what that Sports Court Playground is, does, and represents. That area is the most highly utilized area of the entire park, and it's used by many different groups: tennis players of all ages; young children on their scooters and trikes; lacrosse players, soccer players, baseball players, volleyball players, basketball dribblers, and children playing dodge ball, operating remote toys, and pushing or riding anything with wheels. These activities happen all day long, all year long, including after sunset under the light. They happen during a light rain, and shortly after a heavy rain while the painted asphalt of the tennis courts is still wet and slippery, but the unpainted concrete playground surface dries quickly and isn't slick with paint. Orinda teachers who bring their students to the park will tell you this is the area where the kids play the most, and it's easy to see why.
For tennis players of all ages, this area functions as an outdoor clubhouse where players can go to meet other players, knowing that they can always hit against the wall even if no one else shows up. But players do show up because of the wall and lots of friendships begin at that very wall. The area is wide enough that 2 or 3 players can hit all at the same time, and then move to a court when one opens up. It's also an area that players taking lessons can warm up on beforehand, and family members that are waiting while other family members take a lesson can play on, rather than having to "sit still" while hanging close to the tennis courts with nothing else to do.
All four plan options have bocce ball courts replacing the Sports Court Playground. That bocce surface would banish ALL the previously mentioned activities from occuring (or anything else for that matter), while reserving the space exclusively for one niche sport.
Simply put, the numbers of people using and desiring that Sports Court Playground as it is far, far outnumber any other single use replacement. Whether that's bocce ball or anything else doesn't change that reality. This Playground has as close to 100% utilization factor as any area in the park - just ask the staff who work here. Since this is plainly obvious to anyone who spends any time at the park, it causes one to wonder how plans to destroy the most popular area ever got this far. As longtime Orinda residents know well, attendance at city council meetings is often low due to busy family schedules and lots of bureaucratic procedures, and often times special interests can sneak by projects that have far less than majority town support.
Whatever the reason in this case, we cannot stand idly by and allow this Orinda treasure to be treated as trash (to the untrained eye, one might assume because the wall has cracks it's old and needs replacing. But ALL concrete and bricks naturally form surface cracks while maintaining structural integrity; this wall in fact has many decades of life left, 9.0 earthquakes notwithstanding). On top of all this, saving the Sports Court Playground is also by far the lowest cost: zero! And that goes for ongoing maintenance as well as one time demolition and construction costs.
Longtime residents have spent generations playing at that Sports Court Playground. Parents bring their kids to play where they played as kids. There's a reason this has lasted so long: it works for everyone, and it works super well! Don't fix something that isn't broken, especially since other hitting walls - like the one that used to be at Miramonte - are now gone.
We the undersigned do not oppose the initial objectives of the Orinda Park plan: to upgrade the restrooms and gazebo/future band shell area. In fact, we strongly support those changes. But we do oppose ANY plan that includes even just the possibility of demolition of the Sports Court Playground. And we oppose it vigorously, and for what we know are very good reasons.
Finally, please don't try to say that putting a new hitting wall inside one of the three courts is anything remotely close to the same thing. That would be like putting the bocce ball courts in the parking lot: no one would never plan to use it because most of the time it's going to be unavailable, and even if you do happen to luck into some availability, you can be bumped off at any time. Furthermore none of the many activities listed above are allowable on the painted surface of a tennis court.
There is plenty of room in the rest of the park and in other parks like Orinda Oaks and Wilder if there are new additions being demanded by the masses; it doesn't make sense to destroy the best and most used of the existing facilities. Thank you.
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