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Citrus Ranch Park

Landscape Architecture by RJM Design Group, Inc.

Nothing Sour Here

On the 40-foot-high knoll behind this active play area with playgrounds for two age groups is a grove of 950 lemon trees that became the central theme of Citrus Ranch Park in Tustin, California. RJM Design Group Inc. was the landscape architect and lead design consultant for the project that also includes a walking path to the top of the knoll and a relaxing meadow area.

Citrus Ranch Park in Tustin, California, provides a beautifully designed outdoor space for the community to spend leisure time with friends and family and to participate in a number of events and programs, planned to build community spirit. By designing to the natural conformation of the site, three separate and distinct areas were created, maximizing the recreational opportunities available to the community. The active play area with ADA compliant playgrounds and a large shade structure plaza lends itself to family picnics, birthday parties, social events, and creative play. The passive meadow area is the perfect spot for informal gatherings, group games, movies in the park events, and group or individual exercise. And finally, the knoll is an opportunity for hiking, running, meditating, ceremonies, and small receptions or fundraising events.

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The ADA compliant playgrounds feature equipment by Landscape Structures distributed by Coast Recreation and rubber safety surfacing in the colors of citrus fruits. The active playplayground area encompassed 3.2 acres.

Strengthening Community Image and Sense of Place:

Citrus Ranch Park strengthens the community image and sense of place by providing a unique outdoor park experience with ties to Tustin's origins. When the community gathered to design this park site, they agreed unanimously that the lemon grove on the knoll must be preserved, but that the community should have access to that knoll, to take advantage of the spectacular view from the summit. The resulting park design accommodated these desires. The knoll is covered with rows of beautiful, productive lemon trees, one of the last citrus groves in the county. A A 1/4 -mile trail winds through the trees to the hill top gazebo where one can take in stunning views of the aforementioned regional locations as well as much of what makes Tustin what it is today; sites like neighborhoods, schools, parks, the adjacent golf course and the historic blimp hangars at the Tustin Marine Base. Another feature of the park that lends itself to creating a sense of place is the Art Wall located at the entry to the park at the base of the knoll.

Promoting Health and Wellness:

All three sections of the park encourage activities that promote health and wellness, but the feature that most typifies this mission is the A 1/4 mile trail to the peak of the lemon grove knoll. Some patrons incorporate the hill into their walk around the park or on the adjacent county trail system. Others take a more rigorous approach like the "boot camp" style of fitness trainers that combine multiple trips up the trail with stretching and core work in the meadow area to establish a very challenging fitness regimen.

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To reflect the rural theme and character of the park, natural stone and wood, and colors ranging in the natural browns and tans, were used on the architectural elements including entry monuments and signage. This gateway also incorporates citrus ranch crate labels. Plants include Lantana montevidensis 'White Lightning' /White Lightning Lantana and Rosa 'Red Meidiland' / Carpet Rose groundcover.

Protecting Environmental Resources:

In addition to the preservation of the nearly 1,000 lemon trees, Citrus Ranch Park also contributes to the protection of environmental resources by incorporating a number of sustainable design practices. The rain water from the parking lots is collected in vegetated swales to control the quantity of run-off and the removal of contaminants to improve water quality prior to entering the storm drain system, which eventually flows into the ocean. Also, selective use of California native and drought resistant plant materials as well as incorporating water-wise landscape techniques contribute to the sustainability of the landscape design. Finally, as mentioned, the irrigation system design utilizes recycled water and incorporates a weather station to improve the efficiency of the irrigation system and conserve water.

Honoring the Regions History:

The overall park design reinforces the citrus theme and reflects on the historic significance of the agricultural commerce of the area, where only remnants of this once viable industry remain. The construction materials and the color ranges specified were chosen to blend with the rustic nature of the area. Galvanized materials were selected to provide thematic highlights. The bright yellows and oranges of citrus fruits were incorporated into the play structure and the resilient playground surface patterns. The preservation of the lemon grove will also serve as an outdoor classroom, providing the opportunity to learn about the historic significance of the orchard, the operation and maintenance required to sustain the trees and the methods of production and harvesting of the lemons.
A Park with a Variety of Uses: Citrus Ranch Park was designed to provide a sequence of distinct spaces, each facilitating different recreational experiences and together creating a unique sense of place. The north side of the park features an expansive grass meadow designed to promote passive recreational activities such as family gatherings, picnics and impromptu fun and games. This five-acre area of non-sports field open space, which isn't always available in newly developed parks, presents an escape from the hectic pace of urban living. The south side of Citrus Ranch Park was designed to be a more active and amenity rich space complete with two age-appropriate citrus-themed playgrounds and a plaza area with a group picnic shelter, permanent board game tables, picnic-pods and a restroom. This colorful, highly developed side of the park encourages residents to actively play and celebrate together. The third distinct area located in the center of the park is the historic lemon grove knoll.

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A local artist named Michael Tauber created a 4'x24' mural with community input that represents the heritage and pride of the Tustin community, which in early times was the home of what would become to be known as the Gabrielino Indians. Europeans first settled there in the mid to late 1700s. Natural artesian wells flowing from the ground produced plenty of water for the growth of plants and trees.

Products used included: benches and bike racks from DuMor. pre-cast concrete picnic tables, court tables with game board inlays, waste receptacles and removable bollards from Quick Crete Products Corp., and NexPavea,,? aggregate paving from Gail Materials.

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Designs from citrus crate labels used in the area's historic fruit production industry were also incorporated, along with citrus-themed symbols, into the playgrounds. The benches and bike racks were from DuMor. Quick Crete Products Corp. provided the pre- cast concrete picnic tables, court tables with game board inlays, waste receptacles and removable bollards.

Contributing to the Economy:

In making the decision to preserve this grove, significant consideration was given to establishing it as a viable economic venture that would help subsidize the cost of the park's maintenance. To ensure the feasibility of citrus production, the City of Tustin has entered into an agreement with a local citrus farmer to maintain and harvest the lemon grove. The result is an edible product that will be harvested three to four times each year and sold commercially at market as whole fruit or juice. A percentage of the fruit harvested will also be distributed to local charities to assist with regional hunger needs.

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The overall size of the development is 17 acres with 3.4 of that dedicated to the meadow area, 8.3 to the orchard and knoll and 2.1 to parking and landscaped areas. Plantings included a selection of California natives such as Madrone and California Sycamore trees, Bearberry, California Buckwheat and Dwarf Coyote Brush, and drought resistant plants like Italian Cypress, Eldarica Pine, Acacia and Bougainvillea.

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An inclined, 1/4-mile trail to the peak of the lemon grove knoll has become a popular work-out location for individuals and even fitness classes. NexPave™ polymer wax-coated aggregate paving was supplied by Gail Materials.

• Owner: City of Tustin
• Project Construction Management: City of Tustin
• Landscape Architect / Lead Design Consultant: RJM Design Group, Inc.
• Architect: James Mickartz Architects
• Civil Engineer: MCE Consultants
• Electrical Engineer: GLP Engineering
• Structural Engineer: ADS Consulting
• Geotechnical Engineer: Ninyo & Moore
• Irrigation Consultant: Toby Mertens
• Arborist: Richard Johnson & Associates
• Artist: Michael Tauber
• General Contractor: Valley Crest Construction (now Brightview)

Nothing Sour Here

At the top of the lighted trail is a gazebo that was custom-designed by the project's architect James Mickartz. It has a drinking fountain inside.

As seen in LASN magazine, March 2019.

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October 14, 2019, 7:21 am PDT

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