Photo and Story by Danielle Robbins
Enthusiastic resident Regumbah Connolly and Mayor Jane Egly marked the opening of the new Frontage Road Mini-Park, located near the Sawdust Art Festival, in Laguna Canyon this week.
Community members who pushed for its opening nicknamed it, “Wing Memorial Park,” after local artist Andy Wing, who funded the local community’s sewer system. The park is meaningful to many of the natives, who never thought it possible to restore the mini park, which they say was used for plays such as Shakespeare’s, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” held in conjunction with the opening of the art festivals decades ago. That might also explain the origin of Fairywood, the name of a nearby neighborhood of cottages whose front doors can only be reached by footpaths.
Over time, the frontage area where Puck wandered amid fairies stories turned into an abandoned storage yard and recycling enclosure, and became a murky dumping area for trash. The locals felt it was time for change.
Connolly, a member of the local community for 40 years, led the movement to restore the park, saying it was, “a thorn in the paw of the community.” She teamed up with Mayor Jane Egly and Ken Frank, the former city manager, and fought for renovation of the abandoned area. Initially, due to the amount of municipal projects already underway, renovation of the mini park seemed bleak. However, Frank, moved by Connolly’s passion for restoring the park, worked his magic and found $30,000 in the budget for the park renovation, just by scaling back a tiny bit on a few public works projects around town, according to Connolly.
After four years of planning, and a final cost of $80,000, the park opened June 22, restored to its natural beauty.
Park designer Robert Borthwick, a Laguna resident and landscape architect, used recycled materials and water conserving succulents that accentuate rustic beauty and also fit a tight budget. Utilized in the design are native species, such as California sycamores, agaves, jade plants, and yuccas. Decorative boulders are natives, too, “rescued” from a recent beach-access excavation at Crescent Bay that otherwise would have been jettisoned at the dump.
Egly described the cooperation and collaboration between locals and city staff as “a perfect marriage” that bred a park open for all to enjoy.