Published May 18, 2017
Volume 1, Number 5

Where Trees are Planted, a Community Grows

By Tina Hansen
Pulse Writer

Ask someone what they love most about working and living in Hacienda and Pleasanton and chances are the abundance of outdoor spaces and parks will be part of their answer. Recreation is a fundamental part of life in the community, and the benefits of getting outside are both physical and social.

Perhaps the most valuable benefit of a park is simply its presence. In a recent study done by the University of Washington (UW) titled “Green Cities, Good Health” it was found that people who are active and interact with nature have less mental fatigue and depression and better overall physical and mental health.

The study showed that just being able to view a park or greenspace has an effect on our social, mental and physical health. Within city environments, parks and green spaces allow people a place for cognitive respite, social interaction and de-stressing through exercise or even just socializing. Having quality landscaping and vegetation, in and around the places where people live, work and study are a good investment for a city. Both visual access to and being within green space areas help to restore the mind’s ability to focus. This can improve job and school performance, and help alleviate mental stress and illness.

Parks also keep the environment healthy. Parks and natural areas, particularly those with mature trees, have many ecological benefits like air filtration, temperature regulation and wildlife habitat; to name a few.

The UW study also concluded that when there are more trees and grass in the common spaces of a neighborhood, the more those spaces are used by residents. Use of these common areas means more opportunities for social interaction, building stronger relationships between neighbors and the community.

The study found that compared to residents living in denser city spaces without such amenities, those closer to parks are more likely to participate in outdoor activities, know more of their neighbors, and have stronger feelings of belonging. Essentially, common green areas facilitate a stronger community.

With thoughtful planning, the City of Pleasanton has many parks scattered throughout the community. In fact, there are 44 community and neighborhood parks, more than 24 miles of trails and over 600 acres of undeveloped open spaces.

There is no excuse in Hacienda not to get outside and take advantage of one of the many parks and sports areas. For both children and adults, there are leagues for several sports from baseball, tennis, and soccer to volleyball and bocce ball. Each park has a unique design and layout developed for different activities.

Hacienda is home to three parks with a fourth on the way: Creekside Park, Owens Plaza Park, and the Hacienda Linear Park, which were developed nearly two decades ago, and Harding Park, which will open soon.

Creekside Park, located on West Las Positas Boulevard, is a well-used neighborhood park with a basketball court, tennis backstop, and sand volleyball court. The open space has two play structures, a basketball court and a paved loop around a large, flat grassy area that is perfect for skating or bike riding. There is also a path over a bridge that connects with the Iron Horse Trail, making it easy to access by foot or bike.

Another well-used park is the Hacienda Linear Park which is located adjacent to the Signature housing projects off of Hacienda Drive. The park covers a total of 2.85 acres and offers a variety of amenities including an open lawn area. In addition, the Linear Park functions as a connector to Owens Plaza Park and Creekside Park, as well as the recently completed Iron Horse Trail section traversing Hacienda.

Owens Plaza Park, which abuts the center portion of the Linear Park, spans over 3 acres. This park features picnic tables, benches, and a tot lot and is accessible through a tree-lined entry off of Owens Drive. Creekside Park is accessible from W. Las Positas Boulevard between Owens Drive and Stoneridge Drive as well as from the linear park via a footbridge over the Tassajara Creek. A large 6.6-acre open lawn space is the primary feature at this park for activities such as soccer and softball. There are also courts for basketball and sand volleyball, and a play area with swings.

The Iron Horse Trail spans 32 miles from Pleasanton to Concord and is a great amenity for walking and cycling. Last year the East Bay Regional Parks District, who manages the trail, made improvements to pavement conditions on a 16-mile stretch of the trail between Dublin and Alamo which included resurfacing, removal and replacement of damaged asphalt, crack-sealing, leveling, micro-surfacing. The trail is now smoother which makes it more enjoyable for walkers and bicyclists who depend on the Iron Horse Trail for recreation and exercise or as a transportation corridor.

A new park in Hacienda is in the works as well. Harding Park, a public park to be constructed as part of the final phase of the Essex development at off Gibraltar Drive near Willow Road, will consist of two playgrounds, one for 2-5-year-olds and the other for 5-12-year-olds, with a picnic area, pathways, and associated landscaping. The project is expected to be completed late this year or early next year.

On the other side of Pleasanton, the new Bernal Community Park has taken its place as the jewel of the park system.  The multi-phased improvement project completed Phase 2 last October and now offers more space to play and several more amenities. The Bernal Community Park sports complex is approximately 16 acres and includes three lighted multi-purpose fields for lacrosse, football, and soccer, a plaza, picnic area, 40-acre oak woodland with trails, field seating, parking, an equipment storage building, restrooms, picnic areas, playground area, and lighted pathways.

The next phase will include the addition of another baseball field, another multi-purpose field, a concession building, an Amphitheatre and additional parking.  There are also plans for an agricultural center.

“We are just going through the planning process now and it will include input from the entire community as to what exactly will go into the next phase,” said Susan Andrade-Wax, Director City of Pleasanton - Community Services Department.

For Pleasanton, the city is constantly upgrading, improving and creating parks to offer every neighborhood a chance to be outside.

“The City strives to conserve and maintain our natural resources and open spaces while also improving our park and trail system to meet the needs of present and future generations, implement energy and resource conservation strategies and improve the overall quality of our parks and recreation programs,” said Matt Gruber, City Landscape Architect, Pleasanton Engineering Department.

Studies in health care settings show a link between nature and healing.  Both passive exposure to landscapes and more active interactions with nature provide mental and physiological benefits that contribute to healing and therapy.

Physical activity has also been linked to improved mental health and coping with stress in adults. The UW study has connected park usage to decreased stress levels and improved moods. Participants showed fewer stress symptoms the longer they stayed in the park.

With that in mind, Pleasanton has initiated an expansion to a popular recreational and exercise opportunity: two additional tennis courts will be added to the Tennis and Community Park. Construction is expected to begin this summer. The courts will include lighting and furnishings and will be designed to match the orientation and design of the existing courts. With input from the community, it was determined that the courts should be relocated so that the neighborhood could retain the grassy open space next to the existing playground.

We all know the importance for children to be able to play; it increases their coordination, problem-solving ability, and social interaction. A scientific study done by the University of Illinois suggests that children who spend more time outside end up paying more attention inside. The study shows that after a child has contact with nature and outdoor activity, they are better able to concentrate, complete tasks, and follow directions.

For adults, what is becoming more known is that as we age, we also need that time outdoors to keep us mentally and physically sharp. For older adults who regularly exercise outdoors, the health benefits include reduced risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. There is also evidence that regular exercise can even improve cognitive function and increase memory skills.

Pleasanton has taken this concept to heart as well in the design of its facilities. For seniors or people with a disability, Kottinger Village began an improvement project this year to expand access and create a more cohesive relationship between the Kottinger Village Senior Housing and the park adjacent to the complex. The City constructed a wider access path that runs through the park from Vineyard Avenue to Kottinger Drive. The improvements will provide an ADA accessible path to the park and playground from both sides of the park.

Dogs are not forgotten in Pleasanton either.  With almost 30,000 dogs in town, the city opened "Cubby's” dog park late last year.  This is the second off-leash dog park in the city, featuring a fenced play area, which includes a place for smaller dogs and a separate place for the larger dogs. In addition, there are drinking fountains, shade structures, and even agility structures.

The new dog park, officially named Cubby’s Dog Park at Bernal, honors the Pleasanton Police Department’s K9 officer Cubby, whose human handler was Officer Jay Graves. The department’s K9 unit was established in 1974, and Cubby was the first to join, serving not only Pleasanton but the entire Tri-Valley.

“The new Cubby’s Dog Park, Bernal Park – Phase 2, Pioneer Cemetery Veteran’s Memorial, Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, Harding Park, and upcoming Trails Master Plan project are proof of our commitment to the quality of life of our residents,” added Gruber.

Another addition to Pleasanton’s outdoor space is a public art installation that will be located in front of the Cultural Arts Building which expected to be completed this summer.

Plans for a new places to recreate include construction of Lions Wayside and Delucchi Parks. This facility will cover a portion of the Kottinger drainage channel through Wayside Park, and provide a larger lawn area for concerts.  As the site of the community bandstand and the Concert in the Park series, Lions Wayside Park is an important community gathering place and performance venue.  Delucchi Park will support and complement the functions of Lions Wayside Park and other nearby activities such as the Farmer’s Market.  This project is expected to begin 2018.

The pride Hacienda and Pleasanton have in the community, and its parks is clear. With the onset of great spring and summer weather, and summer leagues starting in many sports, there is no reason not to get outside and enjoy the best of what the community offers.