Photo by Pinterest user Pamela Waddell
By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel
Landscape architect Michael Arnone was showered with compliments Thursday night for his design of the Rispin Mansion Park for the city.
There were four yes votes on the City Council for his proposal to take down part of the masonry wall along Wharf Road so people could see into the park; Mayor Dennis Norton wanted to retain the wall because of its historic aspect surrounding the empty mansion, built in 1921.
All the other elements, the bocci court, tables for people to play chess, a kids’ nature play area, restoring the reflecting pool, the fountain and the garden were given unanimous support to be included in the 5.9-acre project, which now will undergo environmental review.
“I love the plan,” said Councilman Ed Bottorff. “I want it to be a place the public uses — like the amphitheater, it’s going to bring people in. I wanted the wall to stay, but I will say the compromise looks fabulous.”
As for Arnone’s strategy to save water at the historic reflecting pool, Bottorff said, “The concept of the false bottom to collect water is brilliant.”
The amphitheater would bump 345 square feet — about the size of the dais in the council chambers — into an area set aside as a conservation easement following a lawsuit years, but Arnone said he hopes to trade land elsewhere on the property to maintain the protected habitat.
Arnone’s plan was so detailed he included brass footsteps to show people how to dance the Charleston, popular in the 1920s, and suggested adding a pelican to the sundial and painting in people into the windows of the mansion and a band playing.
Councilman Michael Termini said he loved the amphitheater and reflecting pool but was ambivalent about the bocce court.
After Arnone said a half-dozen bocce players attended workshops asking for a court, the council agreed that element should stay.
Councilman Jacques Bertrand said parents would likely take their children to the park after visiting the library, which is across the street.
“We’re lucky you designed this,” he told Arnone.
“This project has been close to my heart for a long time,” Arnone said.
Barbara Bernie, a landscape architect who has been watching the Rispin property since 1987, added her support.
“As Mike has designed it, it’s brilliant,” she said. “The amphitheater, absolutely, I think it’s perfect for this place.”
Resident Helen Bryce said the plans were so beautiful, she wept.
Brion Sprinsock, founder of the Capitola Food Tour, spoke in favor of removing the wall, saying “it destroys the relationship” of the park to the street.
He said Perry Park, isolated from the street, “failed,” while Noble Gulch Park next to the street is more accessible and gets more use.