Lacy Park Loop Refurbishment is Right on Track

For San Marino residents suffering Lacy Park withdrawals, the wait will soon be over. After a 10-week closure for refurbishments, the park is on schedule to reopen at the end of this month. Behind its padlocked gates, contractors have been working tirelessly since August to complete a long-overdue overhaul of the park’s inner loop.
When the gates open again on Oct. 30, visitors will find the old, worn pavement replaced with some 500 tons of shiny new rubberized asphalt, 5,000 feet of new curbing and several additional park amenities.
The loop makeover comes after years of patchwork repairs had rendered the pathway uneven, bumpy and cracked. In some areas, layers of old concrete were even threatening to overtake the outlying curbs. While the new pavement will undoubtedly make the track safer for the countless walkers, joggers and cyclists who use it for recreation, city officials said the refurbishment was primarily for aesthetic and maintenance purposes.
“It was time for a new road. It was just worn out,” Parks and Public Works Manager Dean Werner said during a visit to the site last week. “We want to have a high standard here, because this is a feature of the city of San Marino.” He noted that in his 25 years with the department, the track had never seen a refurbishment of this scale.
“It’s our only park,” added Assistant City Manager Lucy Garcia. “It’s a treasured place for the residents, and we do street work every year, so it was just time to address the asphalt here.”
Last Thursday, the new asphalt had not yet been laid, though the curbs and gutters surrounding the inner and outer perimeter of the loop were nearing completion. In addition to tearing up multiple layers of concrete from previous repairs, contractors discovered a network of rusted piping during demolition that dated back to the park’s opening in 1925. The removal of those long-defunct pipes necessitated that work on the inner curb be finished before paving of the main road moved forward, Garcia said.
Just in time for El Niño, the curb work includes the introduction of new gutters and a storm water drainage system, which will capture and divert storm water into four infiltration pits, or basins, stationed around the loop. Rather than drain into the ocean, the run-off collected in the 4-foot basins will be redirected into the park’s own water table. The new feature, which was developed during the project’s planning phase, complies with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, a federal water pollution management program.
“We had been going through the permit process with the state and with the county, so essentially, in order to fulfill our own compliance criteria, we felt that there were some things we could introduce into the park that would help address those kind of mandates at the same time,” said Garcia. “It really worked out nicely.”
The cost of such improvements was partially offset by a $210,280 grant the city received from the state Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. Only a small portion of that —about $5,000 — has gone toward the cost of the new asphalt, with the remainder being applied to other road projects throughout the city.
The loop’s revival is the first of three major improvements that will be made to the park in the coming months, with work on new restrooms and the Patrick’s Tree playground project still yet to commence. Ideally, the city had hoped to complete all three projects while the park was closed, Garcia said, but “some of the planning didn’t interface, so you’re going to be seeing this improvement first, followed by Patrick’s Tree and the restrooms.”
The privately funded Patrick’s Tree project will see the addition of three trees — one inside and two on the perimeter — to the existing playground area, along with an arbor at the entrance, a brick walkway, additional seating, new shrubs and surrounding fencing. With plans recently completed, the project is currently out to bid. Bidding will close on Oct. 20, and the project is expected to be awarded to a contractor on Oct. 30, with work beginning in mid-November. Construction of the new restroom facilities is expected to begin in early December.
Both the playground and the existing restrooms will be available to visitors when the park reopens. Once ground breaks on the Patrick’s Tree project, portions of the playground will be intermittently closed for improvements, but the area should be mostly accessible throughout the projected 90-day construction period. After the old restrooms are demolished, the city will likely install portable facilities for visitors.
The park’s closure did present other in-house maintenance opportunities, however. The city took advantage of the hiatus to install new computer-controlled irrigation on the north end of the park and update the underlying piping to modern PVC pipes to avoid leaks or bursts in the future. While city parks are exempt from the watering restrictions applied to street medians, the computerized system, which now operates throughout the entire park, will help the city continue to monitor and reduce its water usage.
“That’s a big issue for us,” said Werner. “Because we expect everybody else to do the same, and we want them to follow suit, so we’ve cut back a lot.”
After losing several of the park’s trees to bark beetles, the city has removed them and planted a variety of new ones in their place. In the northwest picnic area, where 10 trees were lost, five new tipuana tipu trees have been planted among the existing sycamores. The tipuana tipus, which will eventually provide additional shade for the area, were specifically chosen by city arborists Ron Serven and Sam Estrada for their fast growth and resistance to the tree-killing pests. There will also be new graffiti-proof picnic benches to replace 15 crumbling concrete ones, along with five dual-level drinking fountains stationed throughout the park — including one with a dog bowl for canine visitors.
There’s still much to do before the improved Lacy Park is reunited with the public. In the coming weeks, workers will cold mill the last layers of old pavement before finally laying the new asphalt. Early El Niño storms could always threaten to delay work, but Dean and Garcia feel confident that the project is on track. Besides, once the loop is paved, the durable rubberized asphalt should last another 20 to 30 years, allowing the city more time to focus on other ways to improve its most beloved public resource.
“We’re excited, and I think the community’s excited to see it and be able to use it,” said Garcia. “It’s a peaceful place to come to and enjoy. It’s a community gathering space — there are all of these great opportunities that we’re able to take advantage of because of this beautiful park. We take a lot of pride in it.”

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