Ever since the City of Calabasas acquired 10-acre Wild Walnut Park on the corner of Mulholland Highway and Old Topanga Canyon Road, this small patch of oak woodland has been mostly left to nature.
That may soon change. At its August 23 meeting, the Calabasas City Council unanimously agreed to direct staff to undertake a master plan for the park, one that includes a children’s playground and dog park.
Calabasas held a “Wild Walnut Park Possible Playground Workshop” workshop in 2015, with about 25 in attendance, “including council members and commissioners,” according to the staff report. However, the park plan was placed on hold due to lack of funding. The council indicated that they now hope to fund the project through the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District (RPOSD), using funding from Measure A, the Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks and Beaches Measure of 2016.
City staff pointed out that similar propositions in 1992 and 1996 allocated funds to Calabasas and were key components in the purchase of the Calabasas Tennis and Swim Center, and building De Anza Park, and the Agoura Hills/Calabasas Community Center.
Measure A makes funding available to eligible recipients for projects that repair and upgrade parks and recreation facilities. However, it also places priority on regional projects and parks that serve underfunded areas, with an emphasis on areas of highest need. The City of Calabasas will only receive approximately $96,000 per year in non-competitive grants (per capita), and another $23,000 per year in maintenance and servicing, beginning in 2018.
The city will have to compete with other L.A. County communities for a competitive grant to fund the project.
Former Calabasas mayor Lucy Martin described the ideal project as “small, in the background, blending, with earth-toned equipment. “It’s disappointing to go back to zero,” she said, describing how the city abandoned the earlier plan. “There is no public park [in the neighborhood] that you can actually go to and enjoy. I really hope that we can move forward and get a park there that the community can use.”
While Martin was enthusiastic about a playground, she had reservations over the dog park proposal. “My only concern with a dog park next to playground is that many children have a fear of dogs, and people don’t always pick up after their dogs,” she said.
Dog owner Roza Besser spoke for the neighborhood dog in requesting a dog park. A hardy bow wow to you,” she said. “There’s growing support for a dog park on the east side of Calabasas.”
Wild Walnut Park neighbor Robin Peterson cautioned that the intersection is dangerous and needs mitigation. “I don’t want to see a child lose their life,” she said. “There’s traffic all day long. No play equipment is worth risking a child’s life. We’ve requested a traffic light because there have been so many accidents.”
The City Council unanimously agreed to direct staff to begin work on a master plan. Public outreach, including workshops, is anticipated to be a major part of the park plan process.
More information on the plan and the park is available on the City of Calabasas website. http://www.cityofcalabasas.com.