The third phase of improvements to San Gabriel Park is set to begin in early May, bringing new destinations to the park 15 years after they were approved and funded by voters in the 2008 Georgetown parks bond.

The $7.5 million renovation project includes building a new plaza area with splash fountains, a skate park, a restroom and a shade structure as well as transforming open fields into a festival space.

This yearlong phase is the penultimate installment in the project to update the park laid out in the 2015 San Gabriel Park Master Plan. While the first three phases were funded by the 2008 bond, the final phase does not have a funding source.

“[San Gabriel Park] is a beautiful place to visit, and it’s definitely something that’s important to our residents,” said Eric Nuner, assistant director of Georgetown Parks & Recreation. “We’re real proud of these improvements and what they’ve done to create spaces for people to get outside and enjoy themselves.”

Adding activities

One way the Phase 3 renovations are set to add to the park’s usable green space is through the new festival area.

First identified as a priority for Georgetown residents ahead of the 2008 bond, Nuner said the festival space was not prompted by the arrival of the Two Step Inn Festival. However, the event—Georgetown’s first two-day music festival, which will bring more than 40 artists and 30,000 daily attendees to San Gabriel Park—is the result of previous master plans.

“Most folks don’t get to open their festival grounds with a 30,000-person festival, so we timed it pretty much perfectly,” Georgetown Mayor Josh Schroeder said.

The timeline for Phase 3 is being driven by the presence of this festival with projects beginning shortly after the April 15-16 festival wraps up. Work is estimated to take 10 months and finish in March 2024 ahead of next year’s Two Step Inn Festival, Nuner said.

C3 Presents, the company producing the Two Step Inn Festival, has already come to the city wanting to renew its agreement for 2024, contingent on the event’s inaugural year being successful.

The space—which encompasses the football field and the former rodeo arena—will host other annual events, Schroeder said, including the Georgetown Field of Honor, a Juneteenth celebration and Fiesta San Jose.

“Everybody [used to] want everything to be on the Square, ... and we always want the Square to be vibrant and active, but now ... we’re looking for ways to activate other parts of the city to accommodate good events,” Schroeder said.

When it is not being used for events, it will remain as green space open to public use or city-organized athletic activities, Nuner said.

Phase 3 renovations also include the addition of a plaza with a skate park, a splash area and restroom facilities, which will be located behind the Georgetown Recreation Center.

While San Gabriel Park has an existing skate park, Nuner said that facility is not ideal as it is located in an old batting cage. He added this will be the city’s first concrete skate park and will include street elements such as grinding rails and ramps.

Georgetown resident Heather Gutierrez said she goes skateboarding a couple times a month.

“I’ve been to the other skate park here, and it could use some improvements,” Gutierrez said, adding she hopes this park has an even floor, more grind rails and more half pipes. “This one being all concrete is awesome.”

While she said she hopes to teach her 4-year-old daughter to skateboard one day, for now, she is interested in bringing her to the upcoming splash plaza.

Unlike other splash pads in the city, Nuner said this amenity will not have elevated features. Instead, the splash plaza will have fountains that can be sequenced with lights and patterns.

“[It’s] more than just a children’s splash pad,” Nuner said. “It’s kind of an architectural amenity, so it can be more artistic in a way.”

Rhonney Greene, who has lived in the area for 10 years, said he comes to San Gabriel Park occasionally.

While he was not aware of the city’s upcoming renovations, he said they may bring him and his family to the park more frequently, adding they sound like “all good plans.”

During construction, the city is seeking to minimize disruptions.

“The biggest impacts will be related to parking in certain areas,” Nuner said. “But since it’s not in a primary active area, most of the park can be enjoyed without impacts to the users.”

The park’s past

Minimizing disruptions is one reason city staff phased the project.

“We didn’t want to close the park down to everybody for a year and half,” Nuner said.

Phase 1, a $2.5 million undertaking, took place between March 2017-September 2018 and included a new playground with a sensory walk, additional restrooms and pavilions, and the restoration of a spring habitat, among other projects, according to the city.

Phase 2 lasted from September 2018 to October 2019 and brought a new basketball court, restrooms, two playgrounds, additional pavilions, trail improvements and two spring restorations to the park for $4.2 million.

While these improvements were outlined in the 2008 Georgetown Parks Master Plan, they were refined in the 2015 San Gabriel Park Master Plan.

City officials said the project was delayed by the 2008-09 recession and the city’s bonding capacity—or how many bonds it can sell at a time. Only one of four projects included in the $35.5 million 2008 parks bond is fully complete, according to city documents.

Inflation has also affected the scope and timeline of some elements. According to the 2015 plan, Phase 3 was expected to cost $4.6 million.

A couple of improvements slated for Phase 3, such as a food truck and picnic grove and a low-water crossing replacement, have been delayed to a Phase 4—which focuses on improvements to sports fields and the disc golf course—due to funding and timeline constraints, Nuner said.

Schroeder said the city is working to determine its needs ahead of a likely November bond, which will include parks and recreation projects. Funding for Phase 4 could be included in a future bond, Nuner said.

For now, city officials are excited to be moving Phase 3 forward.

“It’s time to get these projects done,” Schroeder said. “Obviously the community is very ready for it to happen, and then you throw in this additional support from a music festival—that really makes it a no brainer.”