Walnut Creek City Council Decides Location Of New Swim & Community Centers

December 23, 2021 10:00 am · 5 comments

Walnut Creek Community Center at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek on December 22, 2021. The city council has decided the center will be the site of the future swim and community center. (photo credit: Ray Saint Germain)

Walnut Creek’s future swim and community centers at Heather Farm will be constructed on the current community center site, the Walnut Creek City Council decided unanimously this week.

The council agreed with staff and the planning commission that the community center site was the best of three options presented. It will be centrally located, allow key pedestrian areas and the playground to remain unaffected, and construction won’t affect swim season at the current center just to the south.

Council members said the site is the least-noisiest option for nearby residents and people using the park’s garden area. It will also maintain the community center’s view of the pond, which won’t be affected by the construction.

But the most important factor in not locating the project at the current swim center, which was one of three options, was that swim season won’t be interrupted.

“One of the things that really leads me to the community center site is the fact that, if you have a two-year construction window (at the current swim center), that means that’s two years where the kids don’t have city meet,” said Councilmember Cindy Darling. “They don’t have county meet, don’t have aquabears.

“This is going to be impacting the same generations that have been so impacted by Covid, And I don’t want to take anything else away from them at this point,” Darling said.

Councilmember Kevin Wilk said the current swim center site could accommodate more convenient parking and promote better area traffic flow. Plus, he said, it would be a great site for another activity the city covets.

“We’ve talked about bocce for how many years?” Wilk asked. “That actually would be a perfect area to potentially have bocce.”

The only downside to the current community center site listed in the staff report was it will require new utility installation and require more excavation for new pools.

The council’s decision Tuesday was only conceptual. The third option was to build the facilities in the grassy area between the pond and the playground, which would impact current parking and the picnic area and impede existing pedestrian walkways.

The project now goes back to city staff to produce two design options for the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Commission to review, then send to the council for more feedback. Environmental review would come later as well.

As will the funding. The city will work with the Walnut Creek Aquatic Association to raise money for the construction of either a 50-meter or 25-meter pool. There will also likely be a smaller pool for beginners.

A city report said earlier this year the future Heather Farm Community Center will cost between $20.59 million and $25.17 million. A future Clarke Memorial Swim Center would cost $16.6 million to $26.42 million, depending on size of the pools.

The council will eventually look at funding options, including fees on new developments, grants, community donations, user fee increases, lease-revenue bonds, public-private partnerships, and general or special tax increases. The report recommended the city conduct community outreach on potential funding.

This part of the Heather Farm project is the first phase of the city’s Your Parks, Your Future plan, initiated in 2018 and delayed by the pandemic. Civic Park and Shadelands Art Center are also on the list of facilities to potentially be upgraded. All were built in the late 1960s and 70s and were identified as nearing the end of their life spans.

The city also plans to design a 10-to-15 year master plan for Heather Farm.

Ricardoh December 23, 2021 at 12:12 PM

I thought we already had a pool and community center.

Jeff December 24, 2021 at 9:29 AM

The pool is falling apart. A huge chunk is missing off the bottom of the lane I swim in at Masters. Maybe one day I’ll accidently cut my foot on it and then own the City of Walnut Creek. No, I would never file a court case.

108RS

BobinWC December 23, 2021 at 2:18 PM

Some city government folks are salivating. Don’t fall for it. The pool has always been for swim teams & not the general public, whose usage amounts to crumbs.
“general or special tax increases”

WC Resident December 23, 2021 at 8:40 PM

The only good news seems to be that no funding options have been identified. It’s someone’s $37 million to $52 million pie in the sky dream for now.

The current location of the pool on the edge of the park works out well for parking and traffic flow. The pool hosts large events and that’s not a problem as there is plenty of parking by the pool plus the streets next to the pool. Nearly all other park users, which includes the community center, enter the park on a separate street. Events at the pool don’t impact the rest of the park. Moving the pool to a centralized location is a dumb idea.

The proposed design eliminates the existing 50 meter Olympic size pool and replaces it with a 25 meter pool. There’s an extra cost option to restore the 50 meter pool. The proposal also eliminates the diving pool that the older teen and adult synchronized swimmers use. Someone from the planning department thought making one end of the main pool a bit deeper would do the job for the synchronized swimmers. There’s a tricky aspect in that a pool’s depth needs to be the same for all lanes when a pool is used for competitions. For a long course race that should not be a problem assuming one end is over the deep end but short course races would likely be restricted to the part of pool that’s not over deep water.

From a recreational public safety issue though an all around shallow pool is better. Someone starting to get into trouble can push off the bottom of a 2 meter depth pool. You don’t have that option in the deep end. I imagine it’s harder for lifeguards to see someone at the bottom of the deep end.

Architecturally, the current community center is very nice as it blends in with the surrounding environment. I suspect most park users don’t know it exists. These days there seems to be a desire to create “statements” much like Concord’s Spirit Poles or their Taj Mahal of a police station. A Walnut Creek proposal in 2017 for the swim site suggested a Myrtha pool. I did not know what that was but now see that some believe that Walnut Creek should be, or is, the Beverly Hills of northern California. See https://tinyurl.com/y2dwwhn5 to learn a bit Myrtha pools.

Person December 23, 2021 at 9:25 PM

This is exciting! The park over at Heather Farms is fantastic, a new swim center is deserved and we’ll be there to check it out.

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