The newest additions to the Mar Vista Recreation Center are in full swing.

A month into spring and a few months after the new park features made their debut, community members from across all age groups have been putting the walking/jogging path and outdoor exercise equipment to the test. Recent visitors to the 18.5-acre Mar Vista Recreation Center off of Woodbine Avenue may have also noticed additions such as a fence around the synthetic turf soccer field and new landscaping.

Community members touted their neighborhood park’s new improvements, which opened toward the end of last year, during a dedication ceremony April 15. Some noted how the improvements, particularly the soccer field fence, were years in the making, as residents and park users worked to resolve concerns over the need and location of the fence.

“I think it came out beautiful,” Tom Ponton, co-chair of the Mar Vista Community Council’s Recreation and Open Space Enhancement Committee, said of the park upgrades.

“It’s been a long battle with many meetings and there were lots of disagreements but also a lot of compromises. I think everyone is happy and it’s one of those compromise situations that was a win-win for everybody.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who attended the dedication ceremony, explained that the new park features were paid for with $450,000 in Quimby funds, which are provided from developer fees. He praised the efforts of the community council and residents to improve their community through the park project and sustainability initiatives like the Green Garden Showcase.

“There’s just an amazing commitment among Mar Vista people to their community,” Rosendahl said.

The councilman noted that because of projects such as the one at Mar Vista Park and other work by residents, the community has established its own identity.

“(Mar Vista) is just a jewel that was a big secret until a few years ago. We’re no longer Santa Monica-adjacent, we’re Mar Vista,” said Rosendahl, a Mar Vista resident.

The latest park additions include the walking/jogging path made of decomposed granite; 10 pieces of outdoor fitness equipment installed on resilient rubber surfacing; planting; irrigation reconfiguration; and a 10-foot-high fence around the outside of the soccer field. The fence was built 20 feet high directly behind the soccer goal posts to offer protection to homes on Woodbine Avenue.

City Department of Recreation and Parks officials noted that recommendations for the project were provided from the local community during citywide needs assessment meetings that were conducted by the department beginning in November 2007.

“This is a great project and the design ideas came from the community,” Kevin Regan, Department of Recreation and Parks assistant general manager, said at the dedication ceremony.

The department worked on the design with the Bureau of Engineering, and a group that works with at-risk youths in the area assisted with the landscaping and irrigation work, he said. Regan explained that the irrigation feature is weather-based, utilizing only the needed amount of water.

The exercise equipment has been incredibly popular in other city parks where it has been installed, said Regan, adding that the department is proud to dedicate the new improvements in Mar Vista.

“This whole project is promoting health and wellness,” he said.

Liz Narvaez, the facility director at Mar Vista Park, said she has noticed that a lot of older people have been exercising more due to the fitness equipment stations. A number of walking groups, including senior groups, have made use of the new path, she said.

“More community members are walking here to exercise,” she said.

Ponton said he would like to see a second phase of improvements in the future. Park officials hope to extend the walking path throughout the park and there are plans to expand some of the restrooms, Narvaez said.

Current and past members of the Community Council agreed that the park seems to be getting increased use with the recreational upgrades, which have attracted a broad section of the community.

“Now this kind of opens it up with more access to more people,” said Maritza Przekop, a council zone director.

Community Council Chair Albert Olson said he is pleased to see a sense of community displayed by all age groups that visit the park.

“What amazes me is the diversity of people that are here – that in of itself is a wonderful new facet of the park,” Olson said.

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