JOHNNY FLORES JR/Coachella Uninc
COACHELLA – Rancho Las Flores Park opened to positive community response in May 2012. Shortly thereafter, however, community members began voicing safety concerns about the park located on Van Buren Street near Avenue 48.
“We realized that there was an interconnectivity issue and, in particular, with sidewalks and how that park connects to the greater community,” said Coachella city council member Steven Hernandez.
The city recently obtained funding, and sidewalks are now on their way.
The $150,000 project is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2014. According to Mitch Nieman, grants manager for the city, half of the funds came from the city’s park development impact fees and the other half came from the Riverside County Transportation Commission’s SB 821 funds.
After noticing the unsafe accessibility, resident and medical professional Monica Lerma brought up the sidewalk issue to Hernandez.
“As a nurse, I worry about people who need to exercise, and the lack of sidewalks obstructs them from obtaining that much-needed exercise,” said Lerma. “Accessibility to the beautiful park is very important.”
The issue also hit close to home for Hernandez.
“I have family that goes there, and they walk through the dirt, and so it’s an issue where there is a lack of infrastructure,” he said. “It became pretty obvious that we needed to fix this.”
According to Hernandez, the sidewalks are only the first phase of improvements for this area. The city is in the process of creating a Community Facilities District (CFD), made up of the parcel owners along Van Buren Street, that will bring additional infrastructure. These improvements would include lighting, street widening, and pedestrian yield signs. The CFD is currently in the engineering phase and the parcel owners are working with the city in order to create a finance mechanism.