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Lighting improvements proposed city-wide

Claremonters love their outdoor spaces. Mild weather provides residents with evenings of movies and music in the park, youth sporting events and other recreational activities that make this community a quaint place to live. However, the lighting conditions at many of the city’s parks are subpar and not conducive to the California-style living residents have come to adore.

City staff set out to improve those conditions in December 2013 when they retained A&F Engineering to develop a master plan for improving the lighting systems at 21 of Claremont’s parks. The consultants evaluated each of the parks on an individual basis to determine the existing illumination levels, existing location of light poles, condition of each fixture and pedestrian walkways, providing the city with a comprehensive Park Lighting Survey and Analysis.

Sports lights were not included in the analysis.

The consultants concluded that the illumination levels on the park walkways and the parking lots were below the IESNA (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America) standards and, with the exception of Padua and Rosa Torrez parks, most lighting fixtures, poles and bases have exceeded their rated life of expectancy and beginning to deteriorate.

It has been recommended that all parking and area lighting fixtures be replaced with new LED lighting fixtures, poles and bases and that the city obtain a Title 24-compliant, low-voltage digital control system that monitors the operation of each light fixture at every park and reports the status to the master control console located at the city yard.

The total cost to update all 21 parks, including the Thompson Creek Trail, is estimated at $3,034,275.

Although the future looks bright for recreational park users, dog owners’ hopes were dimmed as little consideration was given to those who frequent the Claremont Pooch Park.

Located just south of the Metrolink tracks on College Avenue, the Claremont Pooch Park is contained within College Park and remains open until 9 p.m. daily. Since its inception in 1996, many residents have used the park after dark and appreciate the opportunity to do so as it’s one of the only dog parks in the area.

However, the late hours of operation and lack of lighting seems to have created a “use at your own risk” atmosphere and park users were hoping for a solution to the problem.

“There is a significant number of people who use the park at night, and one of our concerns was having some type of lighting on the far side so that people making the circuit would not be tripping in the dark,” Kathleen King, a frequent park user, tells the COURIER. “A lot of people are getting hurt out there because they can’t see.”

Roughly 50 people, including many Friends of the Claremont Pooch Park, attended a Special Parks, Hillsides and Utilities Committee meeting at the Alexander Hughes Community Center last month. Voicing their concerns about the lighting issues at the Pooch Park, one thing became clear time and time again—safety is a problem.

“Many people who use the park are older and there are a number of people who have fallen in that park because of inadequate lighting,” said one pooch owner who attended the meeting. “I think if you were to ask for a show of hands, you might not be too comfortable with the number of people who have fallen in the park.”

“Every fall is a hazard, and we’re concerned about this,” she added.

Hoping to prevent further injuries is Good Samaritan Keith Pohlman, who for the past two years has taken the lighting matter into his own hands. On most days around 4 p.m., the Claremont resident can be found providing light-up dog collars as well as setting up a series of portable LED lights around the pooch park’s walking circuit. Dog owners use the informal, decomposed granite pathways between the park’s turfs frequently, and they’re puzzled by the city’s decision to omit them from the lighting analysis.

“For the purposes of this report, those weren’t necessarily considered pathways as were the sidewalk area within the park,” Community and Human Services Manager Kristin Turner told the crowd when asked about the omission. “We did work with the consultant to ensure we were getting some light to an adjacent sidewalk along the northern side of the pooch park, as well as some lighting that will spill into the pooch park itself.”

“You can only control light a certain amount,” explained Louis Flores with A&F Engineering, who presented a series of slides featuring the proposed lighting placement within each park. “The lower you go, the less likely the light is to projectile. As you know, residents’ homes are here, so that is the closest we could put that light in the area without impeding into the neighbors’ yards and spilling light into their properties.”

Given the significant cost of implementing the suggested lighting improvements for each park, a phased approach will likely be necessary and has been drafted by the city. City staff and the consultant evaluated a number of criteria, including programmed evening use and reported crimes that happened within each park between 2012 and 2014, in order to develop priorities to guide the phased implementation plan.

The parks have been broken up into five priority groups, with the first group including Wheeler Park, College Park, Cahuilla Park and Memorial Park at an estimated cost of $649,881. Cahuilla Park will use the lion’s share of the proposed amount at an estimated $302,343.

A total of $150,000 of the 2014-16 Capital Improvement Plan budget has been earmarked to implement the recommended park lighting improvements. The city also received a $270,650 HHRP Grant for Wheeler Park improvements, a portion of which could be used for improving lighting conditions.

After reviewing the Park Lighting Survey and Analysis on November 19, committee members unanimously recommended to the Community and Human Services Commission that they approve the park lighting priorities and send them to the city council for review. On December 3, the commission did just that, despite one last plea from Friends of the Claremont Pooch Park President Debi Woolery.

“We’ve surveyed 135 people who make approximately 410 trips to the park each week with their dogs. Ninety-four people requested lights for the park,” she said. “The thing that really concerned me is 20 people have tripped or fallen in the park when it’s dark or when it’s twilight. People who want to use the park with their dogs are going to come into a situation where it’s not safe for them to do that.”

The Park Lighting Survey and Analysis is expected to appear before city council on January 13, 2015.

For more detailed information on the lighting analysis as well as list of park priorities, visit the city’s website at www.ci.claremont.ca.us.

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

 

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