AP Ribbon Cutting Cermony

This upcoming Saturday December 12, 2015 will be the date for a ribbon cutting ceremony honoring the completion of the Adventure Playground park project that has endured for in and around 8 years.

We hope that you will attend for this rather exciting event.

AP Invite AP Invite_Reduced

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The End Game

Dear Defender,.

Last month we were invited to Irvine City Hall to meet with various staff from Public Works and Community Services. At the meeting, Public Works staffers Jacki Scott and Shohreh Dupuis presented a ‘budget alternative’ for the park that would enable AP to open without any additional funding. At first we were leery about further cutting back the park, especially after going through a rigorous feature selection at the Community Services Planning Commission and Community Workshop. But we soon learned that this budget alternative is the surest bet for getting the park open.

Here are the details about AP’s future:

  • There is an upcoming November City Council election. The current members of City Council are familiar with the AP project and understand how much it is valued by the community. A whole new council could mean a whole new ballgame.
  • To request additional funding for the park requires at least three months of engineering development before the plan would be ready for presentation to Irvine City Council. This puts us at a vote after the November elections.
  • The additional funding to complete AP as recommended by the Community Services Commission is $.9 million. Since these funds are not budgeted for, they would have to be taken from other programs or reserves. Reallocating nearly a million dollars for a park during an election cycle is risky business for incumbents.
  • AP already has enough money budgeted in order to open under the revised budget alternative. According to Public Works, AP could begin construction within 60 days of council approval, followed by 6 months of construction.
  • The revised budget alternative is going to vote TOMORROW Tuesday Aug 26. It stands good chance of passing.

So what is the revised budget alternative?

  • Reduce water feature and pond to a simple hand pump at the top of the hill where the old water slide began
    • The water would run down the hill and over specialized soil that drains a significant amount of the run-off
      • This revision actually allows for more soil/water interaction for children
  • Retain climbing forest and a reduced tree house structure
    • Any surplus budget after the bidding process would go towards expanding the tree house to its full size
  • Retain concrete slides and sensory garden
  • Build a shade trellis, shaded picnic benches, and materials storage sheds
    • These elements would serve as a hang out area
  • Install infrastructure for future lighting (conduit)
  • Seeded aggregate concrete walkways (not colorized)
  • All original native plant landscaping, including bamboo forest for building materials harvesting
  • Ropes course (totem style) poles interspersed throughout the park

We are enthusiastic about this latest design development. It skirts by any further bureaucratic and political obstacles and allows the park to get open FASTEST. Plus, all the cutbacks really make AP more AP. It does the absolute best it can with the resources given. And if that’s not in the spirit of Adventure Playground, then we don’t know what is.

This alternative goes to vote at TOMORROW’S CITY COUNCIL MEETING Tuesday Aug. 26th at 4:00 pm. We encourage you to come out and support this latest recommendation to open the park using only the existing funding that it currently has.

From this vantage, what we see is the final end game. There is a practical and feasible park on the horizon. As Defenders of AP, we back this alternative. We are ready to build.


Defenders of Adventure Playground

Long live the AP legacy!

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One Vote Away

Dear Defender,

Our last post touched on the high construction cost estimates for the park, and the need for design revision to bring the costs down. Since then we have gone through an additional community workshop and a Community Services Commission meeting. At the last Commission meeting on April 2, the commissioners took the workshop results into consideration as each commissioner drafted their own personal feature list. After a lengthy recess and much number crunching, the lists were blended into a final decision as follows:

  • Substitute large mature shade trees for new saplings
  • Eliminate the import of large rock boulders
  • Use regular coloring on concrete pathways instead of custom sand color
  • Eliminate the shipwreck play structure entirely
  • Eliminate the climbing wall play structure
  • Eliminate the amphitheater
  • Eliminate the administration building with trellis

These reductions bring the budget adjustment needed to complete the park down from $1,965,000 to $992,650. The latter figure is the amount the City Council will either pass or reject in a future Council Meeting. The timing on this vote is not set. I’ve made several inquiries to Public Works about this, and the response so far has basically been, ‘We’re still working on it’.

In the mean time, we can help our chances by contacting City Council members and voicing support for the upcoming vote.  If they vote yes, we are golden. Let’s build! If they reject the motion, they have the option to scrap the whole project or send it back for more cuts. Given the severity of these latter options, now is a critical time to act. The council will be more willing to vote for the additional funds if the public is showing strong interest. So please, pick up your phone! Draft an email! We made it this far because we made our interests known. We will succeed in our efforts if we continue speaking up. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Even though we had to go back and make cuts to the master design, we are confident that the end result is going to be a feature rich park that carries on the AP legacy. We still have the pond and waterfall feature, the climbing forest, the tree house, the concrete slides, sensory garden, lighting for night events, zip-line, climbing poles and stumps, and large amounts of sand play surface. This is a promising start to the newest chapter in Adventure Playground’s history.

Lastly, I want to take time to commend the Community Services Planning Commission for their democratic approach in dealing with these reductions. They all sincerely care about this project and were very diligent in weighing the pros and cons of every feature. It is really a neat experience to see how much AP is valued even at these higher levels of the democratic process.

Now let’s hear some squeaky wheels!


Defenders of Adventure Playground
Long live the AP legacy

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Design Revision Workshop Wednesday, March 26

Dear Defender,

The outcome of the last Community Services Commission Meeting on March 5th is that AP is too costly as currently designed, and that another Community Workshop will be held to revise the park features in order to bring down costs. While it is unfortunate that we now have to go back and make cuts, we are encouraged by the enthusiasm that the current Community Services Planning Commission has for AP. The commission was sympathetic to the years of effort we have put into this park, and were adamant about moving quickly with the design revision. Thus we have a design revision workshop this Wednesday March 26 at 6pm in University Park Community Center. The goal of this workshop is to weigh the pros and cons of elements such as the waterfall, living pond, sunken pirate ship, etc. in terms of cost and long term value to AP. By the end of the workshop, we hope to have revised feature set / construction cost to submit for review by the Community Services Planning Commission. Exactly how much we need to cut ought to be hashed out in the workshop. The commission has made clear what ballpark they are comfortable in, and fortunately it is more to work with than the Value Engineering Design Alternative 2 figures initially proposed by Public Works.

We encourage our supporters to come out and participate in this revision workshop. AP is a community park and community participation is what legitimizes Defenders of Adventure Playground and what legitimizes the value of Adventure Playground as a project worth building.

Hope to see you there!

Defenders of Adventure Playground

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Construction Cost and Commission Meeting

Dear Defender,

The City of Irvine has published a construction cost estimate for building Adventure Playground according to the design set forth in the Master Plan. The construction cost estimate will be presented in a staff report this Wednesday (today! for most of you reading this) March 5th at the Community Services Commission Meeting at City Hall taking place in the evening at 5:30. The commission agenda can be found here, and the staff report here.

A warning: finish chewing or swallowing any liquid at this moment. Drum-roll please…

AP as designed will cost a total $4.9 million over the life of the entire project.

That figure is to build AP to the fullest extent of the Master Plan: with a pond, hillside water feature, sunken pirate ship, tree house, rock wall, amphitheater, zip-line, sensory garden, admin building, night lighting etc. The price includes the monies already spent for design, as well as future engineering costs and construction costs. The construction side of that is $3.3 million, with an additional $665,000 for construction management and construction contingency. Total construction cost: $3,965,000.

City of Irvine Public Works department has offered a Value Engineering Alternative where they shave of $1.3 of the construction price tag by eliminating the pond and water feature, shrinking the play structures, eliminating the admin building, and doing other tweaks like installing gray concrete walkways instead of sand colored ones, taking out boulders, and planting smaller trees. Ultimately, it is a cheapened down version of the park. Construction contingency and management goes down to $535,000, but the alternative requires another $125,000 to go back and redesign. So total construction cost $2,660,000. That’s $1,305,000 total cost savings for the value alternative.

What does it all mean? Basically the Community Services Planning Commission will make 1 of 3 recommendations to City Council: 1.Recommend the project as is (possibly with the option to build it in stages), 2.Recommend the value alternative, 3.Scrap the whole project.

Where do the Defenders of Adventure Playground stand? I want to first note that we have been serving as representatives of this group for nearly 4 years. In all those years we have been confident that we understand the voice of the community based on our experiences as former AP staff, former kids playing there, presence in all community workshops, and presence in social media. This is the first time where we cannot comfortably speak on behalf of the community regarding this matter. It’s a lot of money by most people’s standards. Yes, when you compare it to the mammoth budget of the Great Park it seems cheap, but it’s a big chunk of money and there are definitely going to be mixed opinions on whether it’s worth the price tag. Furthermore, we feel that there will also be mixed opinions on what elements to keep for the value alternative. Should we keep the water features and eliminate play structures, or vice versa. As leaders of this organization here is our official stance: We recommend the park continue as designed by the Master Plan. We’ve worked long and hard on getting this design to harmonize with the AP spirit, and if it’s possible to go through with it all intact then damned if we don’t go for it. If the park is simply too expensive as is, then we recommend that Community Services host another workshop to collect community input on what elements should stay and what should go. We feel that’s the most fair way to modify the design. What stays and what goes should be the community’s decision.

So now what? We urge you to come to the Community Services Commission Meeting this Wednesday March 5th (likely today if you’re still reading this) and support AP in the way you feel is best. If you can make it, come out and show your support.


Defenders of Adventure Playground

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Material Changes and Plan Check

Our saga to rebuild and reopen Adventure Playground has passed its three year anniversary. In this time we have made considerable gains from earning planning funds and running community workshops, to approving a master plan and approving a budget for construction. This past Wednesday three of us Defenders met with ten City of Irvine staffers assigned to various roles in the AP development process in order to discuss AP’s latest developments concerning plan check. We learned that the plan design is over 90% completed and is gearing up to begin construction bids early next year. Construction is scheduled for early spring, Grand opening is tentatively set for June 2015. The 10% left for the design refers in part to a materials change request concerning pathways and fall protection for play structures. Originally the pathways were to be made from a decomposed granite product called Nexpave and the fall protection to be made from a wood mulch product called Fibar. We learned in this most recent meeting that certain project managers had opted to replace these materials for concrete pathways and rubberized surface fall protection. For us defenders, this was unsettling news. It has been the community’s stance since the earliest of the public workshops that concrete pathways and rubberized fall protection do not belong in AP. The community has established a theme of organic building materials that foster a feeling of connection to nature. Concrete and rubber do just about the opposite of that as you play, walk, and run across them.

City staff reasoning for this materials change request follows:
  1. The city has implemented decomposed granite (Nextpave) in their Bommer Canyon facility and it has already begun cracking after less than 1 year
  2. Wood mulch is messy and would require more maintenance to sweep
  3. Wood mulch could be thrown into the new AP pond by children or blown into the pond by wind.
  4. Wood mulch is a choking hazard

Our response follows:

  1. Nextpave cracking is a legitimate concern, yet it is possible this is only an issue for parking spaces frequented by automobile traffic.  AP would not have auto traffic except for very infrequent maintenance vehicles for tree trimming. At this point, managers are pretty upset with the Bommer canyon install and are not open to Nexpave at all.
  2. AP is supposed to be a messy place. That’s sort of the point of a ‘Tom Sawyer’ experience. Besides, the park will be staffed when open and can easily be swept up by staff before shifts, by leaders in training, or by volunteers.
  3. Kids will be kids. Yes they could throw some wood chips into the pond; but that’s why we have staff on site. Plus its nothing a pool net couldn’t fix. For wind issues, see the next section on resolutions.
  4. Everything that can be swallowed is a choking hazard. There are tens of thousands of code compliant parks using Fibar mulch. If a child is young enough to swallow a wood chip, then that child is too young to be unsupervised anyway. The driving spirit of this AP rebuild is that we are not going to produce a “bubble wrapped” play environment as a concession to every little and remote liability concern.

Our suggested resolution to these material changes is a building material product called Woodcarpet by Zeager. Woodcarpet is a bonded mulch used for trails and playgrounds that is resistant to wind erosion. There are also similar alternatives, including certain “double shredded” mulches for playgrounds that stick together like nappy hair. To be fair to city staff, they did select a seeded aggregate concrete that has a natural look to it, and chose recycled rubberized fall protection that is earth toned. While we do appreciate the effort to make these ‘alternative’ materials more organic looking, these choices are still the motus operandi of the stereotypical playground that AP is getting away from; not to mention significantly more expensive (200% more for concrete, 150% more for rfp).

We’ve suggested this resolution to city staff and they have agreed to look into using Woodcarpet as an alternative. While certain staffers in public works were receptive to the idea, we did receive a pessimistic response from the AP project’s primary decision maker Dori Budde who expressed little enthusiasm for the Woodcarpet suggestion. Dori is the new City of Irvine Community Services Manager and has only been with the AP project since April 2013. We encourage you as an AP advocate to write to Dori Budde (dbudde@cityofirvine.org) and express your support for the use of organic building materials like Woodcarpet, and explain in your own words why materials like concrete pathways and rubberized fall protection are best left outside of AP. We also suggest contacting a City of Irvine council member to express your support for efforts to implement Woodcarpet or similar organic alternatives.

The following are the standing Irvine City Council members and their email addresses:

  • Mayor Stephen Choi – stevenchoi@ci.irvine.ca.us
  • Councilmember Larry Agran – larryagran@ci.irvine.ca.us
  • Councilmember Beth Krom – bethkrom@ci.irvine.ca.us
  • Councilmember Jefferey Lalloway – jeffreylalloway@ci.irvine.ca.us
  • Councilmember Christina Shea – christinashea@ci.irvine.ca.us

**Note: We suggest cc’ing Marie Luna (MLuna@ci.irvine.ca.us) on any emails you send regarding this matter. She is our primary point of contact on this project

Up to this point, city staffers have been incredibly gracious in continuing to invite us for update meetings, and by respecting the vast majority of AP themes and ideas requested by the community at workshops. They have gone to greater lengths than your average park to accommodate AP’s unique themes that make it such a special place. Over the course of three years the persons and city departments involved with the project have changed significantly. It is important for us as a community to reaffirm our support for this project and its themes by contacting our public servants endowed with the responsibility and authority to manage AP.

Long live the AP legacy.


Defenders of Adventure Playground

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Project Design and Drawings Progress

We’ve dusted off the cobwebs on our AP notebooks and met with project planners at City Hall in early March and May. The meetings were between Defenders of AP, City of Irvine Senior Park Planner Marie Luna, and members of the contracted design firm EPT. We focused on the design details of the park, with Defenders of AP providing feedback and suggestions where the design worked and didn’t work. For example, the implementation of a natural shoreline for the pond – great! An ultra-modern looking tree-house made out of steel and chain link fence? Not so great. More Tom Sawyer, more wood please.

We are encouraged by the design’s progression, and are especially impressed by the careful attention paid to every element, from the selection and placement of native plants down to the speed of the slides and use of recycled materials such as shipping containers for the staff building. The design is staying true to the vision set forth at the community workshops, and the dedication of the professionals managing this project is evident.

So what’s next?

Finalize the design, then make some pictures, scientific pictures called construction drawings. We saw a few of these in their early stages, specifically those elements that are designed from scratch: the amphitheater, staff building, tree-house, & sensory-garden. These drawings spell out all the details needed for construction companies to go in and build; e.g measurements, materials, location. Other elements in the park are “stock-items” so to speak, structures out of a manufacturer’s catalog: the sunken pirate ship, zip-line, and slides. This type of item speeds project completion because it is already approved by the city’s Plan Check department. Items designed from scratch will need the construction drawings to go through an approval process.

And the timeline? Design completion and construction drawings are happening now, followed by plan check which is expected to complete at the end of summer. Once the plan is green-lighted, the project is off to bid in mid-fall. It gets a price tag, and the city council votes to approve the whole deal. Here’s the good news about the money: funding for AP was already approved during the budgeting process in 2012. The money for construction is due to be available July 1st 2013, the quantity is a high-end guesstimate since the exact amount is unknown until bidding. Where did it come from? To quote Senior Park Planner Marie Luna, the budget was “was finalized with the approval of the William Lyons project and inter-fund transfers through the fiscal year-end report process”. I’m guessing the Lyon’s project refers to the slew of shmancy homes they’re building in University Park on the lot that was formerly occupied by Vista Verde elementary school. Anyhow, we’re looking at a Summer
2014 opening with construction starting Winter and going into Spring.

We want to give a big thank you to City of Irvine and EPT staff for valuing our input and taking the time to meet for updates and discussion. We also want to thank you the reader for continuing to show interest in AP. This is truly more than a park, it is a set of principles on what we value for our community, our culture, and our children. The number of newsletter subscribers continues to grow between each issue as new people discover what the Defenders of Adventure Playground are accomplishing.

Long live the AP legacy.


Defenders of Adventure Playground

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Master Plan Approval, What’s Next?

Dear Defenders of Adventure Playground,

While late to update, we would like to make it known that the AP Master Plan was approved by the Community Services planning commission on June 6th. This means that the city has officially recognized our collective vision of AP and will now begin to draft construction drawings of the park’s features with the help of the contracted design firm EPT. The construction drawings are the nuts and bolts of the new park, and will serve as a “scope of work” that will be used to receive project bids from actual construction companies. In essence, they draw a picture of a zip line and ask “How much?”.

Once the park has a price tag, it’s put to vote by city council. They choose whether or not to approve the funding. If they give the thumbs up, are are ready to roll. This may happen sooner than later. At the last public workshop, city staffer Marie Luna had encouragingly announced that it was the city’s goal to open AP by Summer 2013.

For the time being, we are left waiting for city staff and EPT to bring the Master Plan’s concepts to life. How they actually implement features such as the rock climbing wall, ropes course and tree houses, waterfall, and castle theater is basically out of our hands. We are left to trust that those in charge are dialed into the community’s wavelength. Having seen how city and EPT staff have collaborated so well with us at the public workshops, we are encouraged that this is the case. Still, it’s a bit unnerving being removed from the design process.

Stay tuned for future updates.

Defenders of Adventure Playground

p.s Teryl Zarnow of the OC Register just published an article about our Defend AP saga online as well as in print. The print issue comes out this Sunday in the local section. Teryl was great to work with and we are grateful for her interest and the exposure that AP is getting from her article. Kudos to Cindy Yamanaka for taking some great shots. You can find the online article here.


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Adventure Playground Master Plan

The AP master plan is here!

THIS is a link to the public hearing agenda for this Wednesday, which contains another link to the AP master plan.

It’s 221 pages, but the meat and potatoes are in the first ten pages, which touches on the parks play features, staffing, hours, parking, landscape, and financial details. Everything here seems to match up with what was reached during the public workshops.

Following these initial pages is a quick overview of the information presented at the public workshops, followed by pictograph reports of the designer’s visits to various playgrounds in Southern California in order to research concepts for AP. The visits include, but are not limited to, Huntington Beach AP, Yorba Linda, AP, and Berkeley AP.

At about page 55 you will find a list of existing materials that will be kept for the new renovation. The list is rather small, with just some rocks, plastic tunneling, and the pirate ship wheel, etc. The most important thing here is that they are keeping the trees! This is noted much earlier in the first ten pages as well.

Following this section is the existing conditions report that we requested at the beginning of our saga. Here you will find details of the structural state of the AP facilities, along with certain “no-nos” concerning ADA and other technical stuff like distance between rail posts, improper hiding areas, lack of “fall-protection”, drainage, and a whole slew of things that could get you hurt. This report is basically a front seat view to the clash between the old school ‘break-your arm climbing that thing and learn yourself a lesson days’, and the days of, ‘my kid broke his arm on that awful pirate ship and now I’m suing you’ days. AP goes through the ringer here, and the best review I can give of what happened is that none of us on the Defenders side had the time, expertise, or patience to knit pick each line item and push for a itemized restoration of each individual problem. To pay homage to the Challenger and Adventurer, there were no structural complaints, only regulatory ones. Those babies were built solid.

Following the existing conditions report is WHOLE LOT of information relating to parking. Apparently figuring out parking is a lot of work, but the general consensus is that everything is cool as long as any big reservations are controlled by city staff, and the focus is on drop-in’s and contract classes. I will admit, I never would have imagined so much work went into figuring out parking. We’re talking a dozen or more pages.

Next up is the environmental impact report. This deals with topography in relation to ADA access as well as storm water runoff, recirculation, and drainage. This section is the longest and most detailed. If you ever wanted to know what a government bureaucracy looks like, you can get a pretty good idea here. We’re talking about reporting who the original indigenous native Americans were that inhabited this land centuries ago. Not even Paleontology gets left behind here! This is the main bulk of the report; nearly 100 pages of some determined soul’s work jumping though dozens of hoops and coming out the other end with a stamp of “no-impact”. Nothing here jumped out at me as concerning, but I didn’t do much here other than hit page down in 3 or 4 second intervals.

Lastly is some more technical detail relating to the approval of the modification by the planning commission.

After an initial and cursory review, nothing seems to have set off any alarms on this end. It appears the main features and concepts agreed upon in the public workshops are reflected here. The finer details of the park features such as the pond, ropes course, rock wall, and ‘build your own adventure’ are still unclear. These things have the potential to be either really awesome or really lame, and there is not much telling yet. Maybe as the re-construction process develops, us Defenders will get to collaborate on such fine details. As for now, things look right on paper, which leaves us to say yes to the master plan. Unless something new comes to light, let’s hope the planning commission on Wednesday agrees.


Defenders of Adventure Playground

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June 6th. 2012 Public Hearing

Dear Defenders,

There will be a public hearing Wednesday June 6th, 5:30 pm @ City Council Chambers, Irvine City Hall to approve the Adventure Playground renovation master plan.

To provide a quick update, Irvine staff, community members, and the landscape architectural firm EPTDesign, have met at several public workshops to design a plan for the re-construction and re-opening of Adventure Playground. Following the final workshop, both City Staff and EPT have created a “Master Plan” that reflects the wishes of the community as stated at the public workshop.

The next step in the process is to present the master plan for approval to the Community Services Planning Commission at Wednesday’s public hearing. But here’s the catch: the hearing is on Wednesday June 6th, and as of today Saturday June 2nd, the master plan has yet to be released to the public! City staff are late in publishing the plan on the promised June 1st release date. We’ll have just over 48 hours to actually read the plan before it goes to approval on Wednesday (if we get it by Monday).

Stay tuned for the next update once we have the plan in hand.

Until then, set your calendar for this Wednesday at 5:30, Irvine City Hall.


Defenders of Adventure Playground

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