County Celebrates Opening of New Waterfront Park

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May 10, 2014 | 12:36pm

Fireworks boomed, scissors snipped a 1,600 foot-long ribbon and fountains of water soared toward the sky – all hailing Saturday’s opening of the County’s new Waterfront Park downtown.

Crowds of people looked on as the park formally opened to the public and then stayed on to enjoy a wide range of festivities throughout the 12-acre site.     

“Today, with the opening of this park, we’re making history,” said County Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob. “The idea of a special gathering spot on our downtown bayfront has been dreamed about for decades. Now we have the good fortune to deliver on that dream. We have created a world class landmark that will be enjoyed by residents and visitors for generations.”

Your Waterfront Park, Your Pictures

The County’s newest park features an expansive civic green along the entire western side of the park with room for 3,900 people on the north lawn and 2,900 on the south lawn, grand promenades and an elevated terrace that wraps around the west side of the building. A spectacular 830-foot-long fountain runs nearly the length of the park and its jets shoot water 14 feet into the air. The fountain’s basins create a one-inch-deep splash area for children.

“This park is the new showpiece of the North Embarcadero,” said Supervisor Greg Cox. “The County’s dream for a park encircling our County Administration Center has finally come true, and it will become a destination in itself for residents and visitors alike.” 

Two parking lots and a boxy, concrete building were torn down to make way for the park. The project cost $49.4 million and was completed on time and on budget 19 months after construction started.

“Look at how this land has been transformed. Instead of cars, you’ll find three theme gardens, 218 trees, lawns, picnic tables and more.” said Supervisor Bill Horn. “And wouldn’t it be great to be a kid again? That playground on the southeast side is huge!”  

“What a great family park!” said Supervisor Dave Roberts. “I can’t think of a better use for 12 acres of premium real estate on San Diego Bay than to build a park and turn it over to the public.”

Designed with conservation in mind, two of the park’s three gardens feature drought-tolerant plants. Drip irrigation rings the trees, and planting beds reduce water usage. Instead of concrete, decomposed granite was used for walking paths, minimizing stormwater runoff. A restroom/concession building was built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Silver standards.

The fountain is the most eye-catching feature of the park. It uses 80,000 gallons of water that is stored in an underground reservoir and reused over and over again. The water is treated constantly so it remains safe to the public. The fountain operates in four modes: as a reflecting pond with about an inch of water in the basins, in jet mode with only the water jets in operation, pond and jet mode at the same time, and completely empty.

"We are reclaiming our waterfront and that is what today is all about," said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. "It was a parking space, now it is a people space." 

The historic County Administration Center remains at the heart of the park. The building was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938. His son, James, re-dedicated the building during the 50th anniversary celebration in 1988. For Saturday’s momentous occasion, James’ widow, Mary Roosevelt, addressed the crowd.  

“Both FDR and Jim had very strong connections to San Diego,” said Mary Roosevelt. “They would have loved this occasion, seeing this wonderful park come to fruition.”

“The San Diego waterfront belongs to the public,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts. “I am immensely proud, and grateful, to have been part of a Board of Supervisors that showed how a dream can become a lasting gift for future generations.”

The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and people interested in reserving a spot for weddings, company events and birthday parties can call County Parks and Recreation at (619) 232-PARK (7275) or stop by the new Parks office on the southwest side of the building. For more information about County parks, visit sdparks.org.

We’re compiling some of the pictures visitors took at the park’s opening. If you have one you’d like to share, use the hashtag #waterfrontpark.

Watch the progress toward building the Waterfront Park in these videos:

Health Building Demolition Signals Waterfront Park's Start
Palms and a Pit
Waterfront Park Project Goes Deep
The First Floor Pour
This Will Soon Disappear
Parking Under the Park
Park Fountain Gets Not So Dry Run
The Trees Are Here!
Rolling Out the Green Carpet
Waterfront Fountain Fires Up