New plans for Lang Ranch Park include Frisbee golf course, outdoor classroom

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Conejo Recreation and Park District officials unveiled their new plan for Lang Ranch Community Park last week.

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, April 12, 2012

Last Thursday, park planners Denise Johns and Shauna Welty shared the concept for the 124-acre property with CRPD’s board of directors and roughly 50 community members.

“It is still in the early, early stages of development,” Johns said of the plan, which includes an outdoor classroom, a disc golf course, seating areas, barbecue areas, benches, three bike riding areas, a motorless sail plane area and multiple trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding.

The new plan follows three public brainstorming sessions, one in February and two in March, where hundreds of community members were able to give their input on what should become of the property bordered by Erbes Road, Avenida de Los Arboles and Westlake Boulevard. In January, the park district was forced to end its 10-year, $2.5-million effort to build a full-service park at the site after a geotechnical study revealed that CRPD would have to spend $10 million to $15 million just to stabilize the hillside property for the proposed amenities.

What ideas didn’t make the cut?

“Basketball courts, lawn bowling, paint ball, pitch and putt, remote-control boats, roller hockey, a casting pond, a gravity roller coaster, a skate park and a splash playground,” park administrator Tom Hare said. “They didn’t meet the guidelines for development (or) were technologically unfeasible.”

During the public comments portion of the April 5 meeting, many community members expressed their support of the new plan.

Bill Bertram, the flight site coordinator for the Thousand Oaks Soaring Society, said the power line-free park is the perfect location for his model airplane club to meet.

“We don’t really need a lot of land; we need the air above it,” he said. “This place has that.”

Joseph Keays, an avid cyclist, said the concept plan was wellthought out.

“I love all the ideas in this park,” he said. “I see it as one of the great potential gems of Thousand Oaks.”

Keays said members of the cycling community look forward to discussing cycling-related park plans with the CRPD in greater detail.

“We are here as a team to help continue the education of the CRPD,” he said, “In any problems that we face, there are solutions.”

But not everyone at the meeting was thrilled with the new concept. Members of the Lang Ranch Park Neighborhood Association, a group that formed in 2005 against the park’s original, more elaborate development plans, still had concerns.

In a written speech, the association’s lawyer, Alyse Lazar, asked the district to remember that the park’s design should serve the needs of residents in its designated service area, the two-mile radius surrounding the park.

“Providing new active and passive recreational opportunities for local residents is great; however, the devil is in the details, and any development must be balanced against any potential detrimental impacts to the existing neighborhood,” said the Thousand Oaks attorney.

Lazar said the district’s tentative plans for two large parking lots by the park’s eastern entrance are excessive.

“Based on the number of residents within this two-mile radius and the current proposed usage of the park, do you really need parking for 230 people?” she asked. “We just ask you to consider that question.”

Mark Evans, also a member of the neighborhood association, said that because the park will be used for passive recreation, a huge parking lot is not necessary.

“There are not going to be Little League fields like there were going to be, (so) a lot less parking is needed,” he said. “We do not want our street to be used as a parking lot.”

Evans said the association also hopes to minimize the park’s potential lighting and noise pollution.

Despite his concerns, Evans said, the new concept plan is a vast improvement over the earlier one.

“We’re much happier than we were with the old park plan,” he said. “We always wanted a passive park for families to enjoy.”

What’s next?

CRPD General Manager Jim Friedl said the park district will begin meeting with individual interest groups this month to decide how particular sections of the plan should look.

The district will also hold group meetings to ensure that the plans of the different interested parties do not conflict with each other.

There is no hard timeline for the project, Friedl said.

“I’m hoping that by the end of the year we have the ability to tell our board, ‘Here is a draft master plan.’”

In order to avoid repeating the outcome of the original park plans, environmental studies will take place in conjunction with all future planning, Friedl said.

“We don’t want to make plans and then realize that they won’t work,” he said.

CRPD, which has $85,000 in its Lang Ranch Park budget, has earmarked an additional $200,000 for the park’s design and development. The park district will receive that money, much of which is property tax revenue, in July, the beginning of their fiscal year.

“Lang Ranch has waited a long time for a park, and we’d like to deliver one,” Friedl said.