Published October 19th, 2016
Public Weighs in on Moraga Commons Master Plan
By Sophie Braccini
The Back-40 at Moraga Commons Photo Andy Scheck
Why change something that everybody loves?

Moraga Commons Park is one of those rare, non-controversial assets that most everybody in town uses, enjoys and appreciates. A master plan for the Commons is almost an oxymoron, but improvements have to be made - if only to comply with regulations on kids park fencing and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements - and residents have pent-up recreation desires that the Commons could release.

Parks and Recreation Director Jay Ingram therefore set up community workshops to untangle his community's dreams. Guided by consultant and landscape architect RHAA, participants talked about more bocce courts, tree swings, more picnic areas, Frisbee golf and overwhelmingly asked to not overdevelop the park and protect its beauty.

The 30 or so residents who came to the second meeting represented the bocce ball group, the Frisbee or disc golf practitioners, the garden club, the Moraga Juniors, different sports group such as LMYA or CYO, and the parks and recreation commission or foundation. Several residents, representing just themselves, came, including neighbors to the park that did not want to see increased parking and activities.

Ingram started by saying that this plan would create a vision for the following 10 years. The consultant acknowledged that the Commons is Moraga's main park, with a lot of community focus, events and desires, but with limited space - it is a 40-acre property constrained by steep slopes and riparian corridor. Only 18 acres are available, of which only 4.5 are flat-ish.

Participants at the Oct. 3 workshop brainstormed in groups what could be done at the park, especially in the area known as the Back-40 - a mystery name for one acre of almost flat land located at the eastern limit of the park. At this time its only use consists in two baskets of the disc-golf course.

With so many competing needs with so few public properties, there is pressure to take advantage of every parcel of land. RHAA asked the residents to discuss the possibility of adding a low-cost gym in the Back-40. Since there is no parking adjacent to this part of the park, the consultant proposed carving some along St. Mary's Road and removing some of the trees there. Almost no one else supported the idea of adding a gym in the Commons in spite of the need for more sports facilities. A resident even said that adding a low-cost facility there would distract from building a real gym and community center in a more accessible part of town.

Other suggestions for the Back-40 included a bike station, a community garden and a picnic area.

The residents of the workshop and the previous one listed their desires: better lighting for night events, more bocce courts, getting the playgrounds close to each other, improved accessibility and existing pathways' rehabilitation. Other ideas included tennis courts, an adventure course, a sports field, more parking and a cyclist gathering point with water and tools.

Consensus formed over maintaining the present balance of organized activities and un-programmed space in the park; some residents added that the park should just be better maintained and otherwise left alone.

The consultant also met with several community groups in town to get feedback. Its 10-year plan will be reviewed by the parks and recreation commission and should be approved by the town council before the end of the year. During these discussions, public input will also be heard.

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Copyright Lamorinda Weekly, Moraga CA