View from the Woods

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Park Potential in Overlooked Spot

By JJ Gasparotti
By JJ Gasparotti

I had a buddy that used to come to the beach a lot.  Every time he did he brought a different beautiful woman with him. He always introduced them to me. But not to the other guys. It wasn’t clear why he did this until I heard him telling one of these women how I was the guy on the plaque he had pointed out during their hike above North Laguna. We were buddies and I was a somebody who had his name on a plaque. Because of that plaque I was a somebody again long after leaving public service and going back to being a nobody.

Now I know why we are better at making new things than we are at taking care of the things we have. You might get a plaque for building a new bathroom but maybe not one for keeping the toilets clean.

Lately some folks have been on a tear to create new pocket parks downtown to enhance the pedestrian experience. They tried out a dining area in front of a restaurant on Forest Avenue. It used up some precious parking places to build a deck with lights and tables. It’s gone now and the parking is back. Then they tried closing off the local’s shortcut left from Coast Highway onto Park Avenue to create a park in front of another restaurant.  That experiment is over now. Perhaps we’ll have an expensive survey to see how we liked it.

But we’ve already got a pedestrian enhancing pocket park. It’s on Coast Highway between Forest and Ocean. It has been there for a couple of decades.  It is part of the project to turn the alley between Forest and Ocean into Forest Lane. A pedestrian friendly place. This project included building bathrooms, paving the alley with paver stones, closing off the highway end of the alley to create a park and installing public art in the park. A big part of the plan was for the businesses along Forest and Ocean to clean up their act in the back of their businesses. Maybe even have customer access from the back.

The bathrooms are popular. Nobody seems to use the park, not even the homeless. The problem with the park may be that it’s in back of restaurants not in front of them. Forest Lane still looks good from the bathrooms towards Beach Street, but from the bathrooms towards the highway not so much. There are waves of trash and garbage that seem to constantly infest the lane. They get cleaned up only to reappear. None of the businesses in this area have customer access from the lane as had been hoped for in the original plan. What they do have out back are trash cans and grease receptacles. Not the sort of thing you’d want in your pedestrian enhancing experience.

There is cause for hope. It isn’t legal in Laguna to leave your trash cans or other garbage receptacles in the public view on streets or alleys. Maybe if we were a little more diligent in keeping our codes enforced Forest Lane wouldn’t still look like an alley. It could even become worthwhile to put some tables and chairs with some shade in that park so that people would want to use it. That might live up to the dream shared by all those who donated money to the effort when they bought inscribed paving stones for the park. Wouldn’t it be better to put the effort into seeing our first attempt at a pocket park become a success rather than building new ones that may also be destined to fail. To bad they don’t give plaques for diligence. With some, Forest Lane and its park could be a success.

 

JJ Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11. He has loved it ever since. This column is the latest of his efforts to repay this home town that has given him so much and allowed him to take even more.

 

 

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