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Colorful sculptures are part of Queen Califia's Magical Circle mosaic garden at Kit Carson Park in Escondido. Courtesy photo
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Escondido applies for $1M grant for Kit Carson Park

ESCONDIDO — The Escondido City Council adopted a resolution on Feb. 6 authorizing city officials to apply for a $1 million grant from California Natural Resources Agency’s Proposition 68 program funds for improvements at Kit Carson Park.

The 285-acre multi-use site greets visitors coming in from San Diego at the border between Rancho Bernardo and Escondido just off of Interstate Highway 15

The permission to apply for the grant received a vote as part of Consent Calendar items listed by the City Council.

Proposition 68, passed during the June 2018 elections, called for a $4.1 billion injection into state coffers via the selling of bonds to fund governmental programs promoting “habitat conservation, parks, and water-related projects.”

The City of Escondido, which officially applied for the grant on Feb. 13, aims to use the money for both park improvements and climate change adaptation measures.

“This project promotes current athletic opportunities by upgrading and expanding the athletic fields at Kit Carson Park and develops future recreational opportunities while greening the park to improve the community’s ability to adapt the impacts of climate change and enhance drought tolerance, landscape resilience and water retention,” according to a grant application summary. “It will improve approximately 68 acres of Kit Carson Park, Escondido’s regional park, serving disadvantaged, severely disadvantaged, moderate and above moderate communities.”

The grant application also goes into depth about what the city of Escondido will do for its climate change resiliency efforts at Kit Carson Park.

“As weather becomes more extreme, environmental and infrastructure changes help to protect built and natural features … Planting new trees will sequester carbon and reduce the effect of greenhouse gas emissions,” details the application. “Drought resistant landscaping and the efficient use of recycled water (smart irrigation controllers) will reduce water needs … By protecting water supply (and improving water quality), this project also protects the habitat and wildlife in Kit Carson Park, helping to reduce species migration.”

Beyond climate mitigation efforts, the grant money will also go toward improvement of sports facilities, a major component of the park. The park currently has lighted soccer fields and tennis courts, both a full-size and a smaller soccer arena, two roller-hockey arenas, a large sports complex, 14 baseball and softball fields and a 17-hole disc-golf course.

The grant application spells out that improvement at those facilities will include turf replacement for two of the soccer fields, planting of new trees, as well as “reseeding the fields, replacing fencing, adding sunshades, enhancing safety by installing new bleachers with handrails and backs, and upgrading/installing water fountains” for the baseball and softball fields.

Lacking the state grant money as it stands, maintenance of the athletic fields and Sports Center currently gets funded via the city’s Park Department to the tune of $25,000 per year.

For baseball and softball, maintenance funding comes from Escondido Youth Baseball and Escondido Girls Softball League, spending $12,000 and $17,000 on the cause on an annual basis, respectively.

The grant application says the money will go toward installation of water bottle fillers with an aim toward reduction of the use plastic water bottles by park patrons.

This will include installing 27 water fountains, 13 of them regular fountains, four of them dog bowl/fountain style fixtures and 10 of them equipped with fountain/bottle style fixtures.

Joanna Axelrod, director of communications and community services for Escondido, said that site visits for top-rated applicants will take place between March and May 2019, with a final decision on the grant forthcoming in December.

“If the city’s project is selected, work should commence in early 2020 and be completed by the end of the year,” Axelrod said. “Many of the projects can be worked on simultaneously.”

Axelrod also said that landing the grant is important due to the role Kit Carson Park plays as a “regional jewel and a source of pride and community engagement” within Escondido and in North County at-large.

The City Council documents for the Feb. 6 meeting also explain that the Proposition 68 grant money may exist as the only funding stream available for Kit Carson Park to tap into to make its proposed improvements going forward.

“These improvements to Kit Carson Park cannot be funded through Park Development Fees or Housing Related Parks Program grant funds,” a document written to the Escondido City Council states. “These improvements to Kit Carson Park cannot be funded through Park Development Fees or Housing Related Parks Program grant funds.”