San Gabriel’s Marshall Park, the newest park in the San Gabriel Valley, opened with much fanfare on January 20, 2018. Located at 311 W. Marshall Street as a joint project with the City and Marshall Elementary School, it’s the first park located south of Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel.
It all began back in 2004 when the City of San Gabriel realized their residents were underserved when it came to parks and open space.
By Cheryl Cabot
It was recommended that a master plan be developed to address the issue. However, it wasn’t until May 2016, that the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop San Gabriel’s first comprehensive Parks and Open Space Master Plan to provide a citywide vision for parks, open space and facilities. This Master Plan is unique because it is separate from the City’s General Plan. It is its own entity.
In the interim, plans for Marshall Park began in 2010. Even with Proposition 84: Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program providing full funding, the project was stalled. Marshall Elementary School is part of the Garvey School District in South San Gabriel, an unincorporated sister-city to San Gabriel. As a result, compliance for all three entities had to be resolved before construction could begin. The project didn’t move forward until Fall 2016 and was finally completed and dedicated this past January.
Much needed recreation
The park provides much needed recreation for this area of the city, with a synthetic turf field and grass areas, game courts, playground equipment, a walking/jogging trail, outdoor fitness equipment, picnic shelters, restroom building, lighting and drought-tolerant landscaping. It is attracting families from across the city.
Councilmember Jason Pu said:
I am a regular at Marshall Park and it’s always full of children and families having a good time. It’s a great example of a collaboration between the City of San Gabriel and the Garvey School District using state funding to bring more open space to an underserved part of the community.
With an RFP in place and Marshall Park nearing completion, it was time to create* the Parks and Open Space Master Plan. In October 2016, the City Council approved a contract with GreenPlay, LLC (they developed over 450 master plans for cities across the country wanting to reclaim or repurpose areas back to green space) for development of the master plan entitled, “Dream Your Park.”
GreenPlay, LLC mailed surveys, made survey calls, held focus group meetings and set up informational tables at various city events to determine the park and open space needs of the residents. They established some of the following objectives:
- A top priority was the expansion of open spaces and parks in San Gabriel.
- Another high priority was the desire for expansion and improved connectivity of the existing trails and public pathway system that connect communities, neighborhoods and parks through the implementation of the city’s existing Bike Master Plan.
- Maintain and improve existing facilities.
- Renovation of community recreation center.
- The need to replace the locker rooms and pool buildings at Smith Park as well as improve the pool itself. The pool is a great asset to the community and very well used but needs significant enhancements in order to continue as resource for the community.
We need to improve our pool and facilities so we can hold tournaments and be proud of Smith Park. An upgraded pool and buildings would invite people from other cities to come here and support San Gabriel. Smith Park is used a lot, but the facilities are outdated.
A deficit in park areas
Following the assessment needs of the community, the master plan team began the field work. This was conducted in two stages, first a windshield tour of the city parks and school facilities in November 2016, and second, through a detailed site visit of each facility in February 2017. 
The next step was a level of service analysis, conducted by Diana Smith of KTUA, a specialist in data analysis and mapping. It was determined that San Gabriel (population approx. 41,000) currently has a deficit in park areas and a higher demand per park than is seen in other jurisdictions across the country. A 5- minute walkshed given a walking speed of 3mph was used. This determines how close residents are to parks within a 5 -minute walk.
According to Smith, “Given current resources, 77 percent of residents do not have access to a park by way of the 5-minute walk, and less than a quarter of the residents (23 percent) live within a 5-minute walk to a park or current joint-use park located at one of the schools.”
Potential park sites
While mapping San Gabriel, the team looked for possible sites for open space to use as a park or walking/bike path. They also looked for joint-use possibilities with schools.
It is safe to say that the concept of what a park is, and will be, has changed significantly. Most people think of a park as a wide open green space. Although ideal, in urban areas it is not always possible, so it is necessary to find and take advantage of space that many would overlook as a possible park, trail or green space. Some of the new types of parks are pocket parks, parklets, curb bump outs, bioswales/rain garden, linear parks, pop-up/event spaces and urban trails.
After possible sites were determined, feasibility and cost needed to be addressed. The team categorized potential park sites and made a cost analysis as well as opportunities for funding. Also included were trends in marketing parks and recreation providers.
The Dream Your Park-San Gabriel Parks and Open Space Master Plan was presented to a joint meeting of the Planning Commission and Community Services Commission on Monday, February 12, 2018. A summary of the master plan was presented by Art Thatcher of GreenPlay, LLC.
As stated in it’s introduction, the Master Plan “is not an ordinance and is not intended to have the force of legislation of the City Council. The Parks and Open Space Master Plan is merely a planning document to foster discussion of ideas that may be considered by Council members, commissioners and planners.”
The opening of Marshall Park is not the end for San Gabriel when it comes to parks and open space. It is just the beginning for this “City With a Mission.”
Cheryl Cabot lives in San Gabriel. She’s a retired school teacher, free-lance writer, political activist, grandmother and avid lawn bowler.
*The task was given to Rebecca Perez, Community Services Director (formerly Parks and Rec Commission) along with her team of Daren Grilley, Public Works Director/City Engineer, Tom Boecking, Community Services Manager, Tracy Steinkruger, Planning Manager, and Senya Lubisich, Community Services Commissioner.
-  Page 60-61, Dream Your Park- San Gabriel Parks and Open Space Plan, February 2018
-  page 4, Dream Your Park –Parks and Open Space Master Plan. February 2018
-  page 48, Dream Your Park –Parks and Open Space Master Plan. February 2018
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