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The Focal Point of a Community
San Lorenzo Community Park
Landscape Architecture by RRM Design

The Focal Point of a Community

San Lorenzo Community Park is a 15-acre site located in San Lorenzo, Calif., in the eastern part of the Bay Area, just a few miles from Oakland. The park was redesigned and revitalized to create a new space in the community.

San Lorenzo Community Park was built in conjunction with one of the first planned communities to be established in the Bay Area around the time of World War II. The park site has housing on two sides, a golf course on another and the San Francisco Bay marsh on the western boundary.

In its first upgrade since it was built in the mid-twentieth century, the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD) was intent on replacing the original dated park and providing the community with a feature-packed space that addressed current recreational trends and environmental best practices. The neighborhood was in search of a park that would fill several needs for physical activity while also providing a multi-generational meeting place to help the tightknit community connect and thrive.

RRM Design Group was chosen to design the much-needed space for the neighborhood. The landscape architecture team conducted community outreach in order to adequately address the expectations of the residents who would be using the park. The designers also prepared the master plan and construction documents and provided construction administration for the 15-acre first phase of implementation. The complete iteration of the park will be 31 acres.

The Focal Point of a Community

A boardwalk made of composite decking leads visitors around and across parts of the park's 3-acre pond.

The Focal Point of a Community

A full-size basketball court and two half-courts were integrated into the design next to the main playground area.

The Focal Point of a Community

Embankment slides are growing in popularity, potentially making it safer for kids to tumble off the sides and creating a quick route to run back into line after sliding down. Playground safety surfacing from SpectraTurf greets kids at the bottom of the slide.

A Bear on a Hill
Phase 1 park improvements include a pond, an adventure playground, a softball complex, basketball courts, workout/fitness nodes and numerous picnic areas. These various amenities allow different groups of residents to find their niche in the space while still congregating in one location, allowing a strengthened sense of community to develop.

The central and most eye-catching element of the new park is undoubtedly the climbing/adventure playground. Utilizing the excavated spoils from the new pond construction, the design team created a play-mountain on the previously flat site, resulting in different levels of play experience that are accessible to all ages and abilities.

At the mountain's summit - approximately nine feet above grade - a climbable faux rock mama grizzly bear stands sentry with her cubs silhouetted against the peninsula in the distance, providing the park with an iconic focal point; in fact, the best views of the park and beyond, including of the San Francisco Bay, are from on top of the bears head! An accessible pathway meanders by a variety of embankment slides, a series of massive faux rock-climbing boulders, a 100-foot long zipline, a tree house and synthetic turf sliding slopes. On weekends and weekday afternoons, the playground is teeming with red-faced children running excitedly from one challenge to the next.

The Focal Point of a Community

The pond works as both a stormwater retention center and the main source for the park's irrigation system. The pond is home to native aquatic plants such as Broad-leaved cattail, Hardstem bulrush, Flat sedge and Pink-flowered knotweed.

A Cherished Pond
Of equal significance is the site's new pond. The pre-existing park contained a 3-acre pond that had been left in a state of utter disrepair; despite this fact, residents still cherished it, considering it a vital part of the neighborhood. However, something needed to change when the new park was being designed. During the community outreach process, a compromise was reached, and the design team proposed a smaller - although still sizable - 1.5-acre pond, which was universally accepted by the neighborhood. Not only is the new pond a beautiful landscape feature with lush bank plantings and a low boardwalk that traverses it, but it also serves a larger critical purpose.

The pond is the engine room of the entire site's stormwater management system. Located at the lowest corner of the site, it receives all the site runoff and continually filters and circulates it throughout the park. During the night, water is pumped out to irrigate the ballfields and other landscaped areas. In the case of major storm events, clean water is discharged back into the marsh. Because of the site's proximity to the bay, groundwater was so shallow: as high as 2 feet in some places, that usual stormwater BMP's such as bioswales and basins were infeasible, and the pond system was a creative solution to meet the Regional Water Quality Control Board's stringent requirements.

The Focal Point of a Community

The Focal Point of a Community

Playground structures allow children different avenues to climb the hill. Some can get to the top by a sloping path, others by stairs, while still others can choose to climb on ladders or through rope tunnels to get to the top.

A Busy Place
A three-field softball complex anchors the opposite end of the park, complete with an elevated spectator concourse, digital scoreboards and snack bar. Different youth and adult leagues use the complex, creating an energetic atmosphere in the park on game nights.

The variety of uses in the park ensure a healthy distribution of activity throughout, with something of interest for all ages and abilities. Planned future improvements will include multi-use playing fields, more playgrounds, a bocce facility and a dog park.

The Focal Point of a Community

While Phase 1 has already given the San Lorenzo community a dynamic park, the space will only continue to grow. Future improvements to be made in Phase 2 of the design process will include multi-use playing fields, more playgrounds, a bocce facility and a dog park. The completed park will cover 31 acres.

The Focal Point of a Community

This statuesque faux rock mama bear serves both as a decoration and a climbing structure.

San Lorenzo Community Park is a Bay Friendly Rated Landscape. This credential is granted through a rating system similar to other sustainability programs, such as the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), but tailored specifically to the Bay Area. There are informational plaques throughout the site with educational tidbits about environmentally sensitive landscaping techniques and practices that people can adopt at their own homes. Not only does the park provide fun and exercise for the community members on-site, it also makes an impact in their personal lives when they leave.

Team List
HARD Capital Planning and Development Director - Meghan Tiernan
Principal-in-Charge - Jeff Ferber, ASLA
Project Manager - Lief McKay, ASLA
Principal Landscape Architect - Gina Chavez, PLA
Landscape Architect - Amanda Klemaske, PLA
Project Engineer - William Strand, PE

As seen in LASN magazine, March 2018.

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December 13, 2019, 6:31 am PDT

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