City to provide $505K for Joy Park

Previously-earmarked grant funding to pay for improvements at Lake Park

ATASCADERO Thanks to some financial rearranging on the part of the City of Atascadero, the Parents for Joy inclusive playground project will be getting under way sooner than first anticipated and is expected to break ground by May 1 of 2018.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to allocate $505,000 in city park impact fees to the Joy Playground project, which will bring a new playground area to Colony Park designed for children with special needs. The city had planned to use funds from a California Department of Housing and Community Development grant, but the grant funding awarded turned out to be less than expected. The grant provides park funds to cities based on the number of new affordable housing units constructed, but since this is the last year the grant is available, the HCD was not able to provide the full $505,000 requested by the city and instead granted $355,706.

“Since we were a leader in meeting regional affordable housing needs and we’ve had substantial compliance with our regional housing needs, we were eligible for quite a bit of grant funds,” Atascadero City Manager Rachelle Rickard said. “But we had to revise the project funding because we didn’t get the full amount.”

Instead of using grant funding for the project, the City will be using $505,000 in park impact fees — fees collected from developers to offset impacts to local services — to fund Joy Playground.

“The Parents for Joy Playground has been a huge priority for this Council and for the community for such a long time,” Rickard said. “Because of some of the building that has been going on, we do have some parkland facilities fees that we can allocate to Joy Playground. We really are working toward making sure that we break ground by May 1 and get that playground done as soon as possible.”

Rickard said that the $355,706 in grant funding would instead go toward badly-needed improvements at Atascadero Lake Park including new playground equipment, replacing sand with rubberized surfaces, new picnic and barbecue areas, electrical upgrades, new drinking fountains and more.

“It has become apparent that we need to make some significant changes to our playground equipment at the Lake Park,” Rickard said. “As playground equipment ages, it stops meeting some of the standards and the requirements and it becomes impossible to find replacement parts. Some of our equipment out there at the Lake Park has reached its final age and needs to be replaced.”

Rickard said that the City has put both the Lake Park project and the Joy Playground project on a fast track and plans to have both completed by June of 2019.

“We especially want a faster track for Joy Playground and want to complete it even sooner if possible,” Rickard said. “This is a playground designed for kids with limitations and without limitations to all be together. And so it is truly designed for everyone rather than the majority of the population with some extra added afterthoughts for others.”

According to Rickard, Parents for Joy will continue with its fundraising efforts, seeking an additional $100-$150,000 “so that we can get everything that we dreamed of for the playground.”

Parents for Joy board member Geoff Auslen said that the organization plans to break ground on the project by May 1 “one way or another.”

“I think it’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone and use funds properly to fix up the Atascadero Lake Park and also get the Joy Park off the ground,” Auslen said. “That will allow us to shift our fundraising effort to help complete the Joy Park rather than to help fund the Joy Park and that terminology is huge. We have some donors who have donated in the past to get us started and they have suggested that once we break ground they will probably donate again and it will be a lot easier to fundraise the shortfall that we foresee and we might actually be able to complete it in one swoop rather than be one or two pieces of equipment short at the end. So that’s kind of the focus that we’re pushing.”

Parents for Joy representative Sarah Sullivan said that people can donate toward the cause by visit and clicking on one of the “donate” buttons, by mailing a check to the address listed on the website, or by making a contribution on the organization’s GoFundMe page.

“Or stop me on the street and give me some money,” Sullivan joked. “There’s lots of ways to donate.”


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