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By Lorraine Sanders
Renovations at the Upper Noe Park and Recreation Center are on schedule and progressing as planned, despite ongoing debate over the park's designated dog play area and its proposed expansion along Day Street.
At the same time, Noe Valley residents are organizing fundraising efforts aimed at outfitting the center with equipment and upgrades not included in the city's $11 million project budget.
Construction on the park and recreation center, which were originally built during the 1950s, began last September and will continue through the early part of next year.
"We're on schedule to be substantially completed in January," said Keith Kawamura, the Recreation and Parks Department project director overseeing the park improvements.
When the park and recreation center do reopen next year, residents will find new playground structures, benches, tables, irrigation systems, palm trees and other landscaping outdoors, as well as new flooring, roofing, doors, kitchen facilities, and bathrooms inside the center. Both the indoor and outdoor basketball courts will receive upgrades, and new fencing will border at least half of the park's perimeter.
Fundraising for Furniture
While frequent park visitors welcome the renovations, many say additional improvements are necessary to create a fully functional park and recreation center.
"[The city] is refurbishing and upgrading the look and doing seismic retrofitting, but inside, there's nothing to do or play with," explained Sanchez Street resident Alexandra Torre.
Along with members of the Noe Valley Parents Network and the Upper Noe Neighbors, Torre has been leading efforts to launch a fundraising campaign that would pay for additions to the recreation center's interiors. Through a combination of grants, community donations, fundraising events, and in-kind corporate contributions, the newly created group, called the Friends of Noe Valley Recreation Center (FNVRC), hopes to raise between $200,000 and $250,000 by the second quarter of 2008.
Funds would be used to purchase an array of items, including children's toys, kitchen appliances, tables and chairs, audiovisual equipment, a retractable screen for viewing movies, a piano, and possibly a PA system for the indoor basketball court. To kick off the campaign, the FNVRC has launched a new web site, created by Karen Opp, that offers background information on the renovation project, updates, and a form for submitting donations online.
The group also is planning a June 3 block party along Day Street "to give people a chance to come together and get updates," said Torre. The party will run from noon to 4 p.m, and will have food, entertainment, and activities for kids.
In the coming months, residents can expect to see information tables for the campaign at the Saturday Farmers' Market on 24th Street. Other events, including a series of fundraising cocktail parties in neighborhood homes, are in the works. While the present focus is on raising money, Torre says the FNVRC would ultimately like to see the recreation center generate revenue that could be put back into the park's upkeep and community-based programs.
"We want to find ways for the community, through its use of the park, to give back to the park and rec center," she explained. That could include offering fee-based classes, workshops, and other events at the center.
Neighborhood Split Over Dog Park
While renovations to the park and recreation center are, by all accounts, clipping along smoothly, the fate of the dog play area at the east end of the park continues to stir controversy.
At a neighborhood meeting last month that brought residents together with Supervisor Bevan Dufty and members of the Recreation and Park Department, roughly half of the Noe Valley residents in attendance were in favor of continuing with the city's plans to expand the dog run, while the other half called for new plans.
The city's current scheme, which is set to go ahead in mid-May, would expand the dog play area by adding a 12-foot-wide strip and a new entrance along Day Street, a move opponents argue would significantly increase noise levels and disturb residents living near the park, especially at night. Opponents also worry that the park might become more of a magnet for underage drinking.
Although residents were seemingly split down the middle on the issue of the dog run's size and location, most agreed that the space sorely needed an additional entrance. (Right now, pet owners can only access the narrow exercise area from the 30th Street side of the park, and many consider that an unsafe situation.)
"Everybody in the neighborhood agreed that there needed to be a second means of egress, but there wasn't a magic plan to do that," said Supervisor Dufty, acknowledging that the Day Street strip was not a perfect solution.
While neighbors continue the debate over the dog play area, Dufty has reluctantly cast his lot with the current expansion plans.
"Although I recognize how unhappy the Day Street neighbors are, I'm not going to pursue [starting over]. We need to move forward with the existing plan, and be careful with how we structure planting and landscaping to mitigate noise," he said.
For more information about the Friends of Noe Valley Recreation Center, the fundraising campaign, or volunteer opportunities at the park, visit www.noe valleyreccenter.com or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.