Capitola awarded $383,925 for Rispin garden, trails Three-year project to address accessibility at city-owned open space

By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel

The Rispin Mansion rises above a walkway that will be part of the proposed Rispin Park project….

CAPITOLA >> A state grant of $383,925 will help fund trails and a garden at the 6-acre city-owned Rispin property, which has been mostly off-limits to the public for the past two years.

City officials envision a $600,000 project to restore the historical garden outside the shuttered mansion, built during the Roaring ’20s and gutted by fire in 2009, and provide paths for people to visit this quiet refuge in the city.

The city will provide the remaining funding, according to public works director Steve Jesberg, who expects the project will take three years.

“This money gives us a jump start,” he said.

He expects to develop a park plan this year, undergo environmental review next year, with final design and construction the year after.

Community development director Rich Grunow successfully applied for the grant from the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which on Wednesday announced awards of $73.6 million, much of it for “park-deficient” communities.

Requirements included having an approved housing plan, with funding based on the number of new affordable housing units permitted and preserved since 2010.

“We had a good chance,” Grunow said.

A homeless man rides his bike through the center of what could be developed into Rispin Park. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Capitola, which is mostly built out, has a handful of small parks serving 10,000 people with the Rispin property offering tremendous potential in terms of open space.

“I’m encouraged,” said Councilman Dennis Norton, who has advocated opening the property for community use after the fire halted a developer’s plan to create a boutique hotel at the site.

The city, which bought the property in 1985, spent $648,500 in 2012 to clean up the mansion and paint it a cream color. To deter vandals, it’s been fenced off, something Norton considers an embarrassment.

Jesberg said there are no plans to install a play area or open the mansion.

The focus will be on use of the open space.

With the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the topography of the site is a challenge. It’s steeply sloped and the mansion is built below Wharf Road.

“We need ramps so everyone can get everywhere,” Jesberg said.

Norton noted funds are included in the 2014-15 budget to correct sections of the Rispin-Perry path where the cross slope is out of compliance. The cross slope cannot exceed 2 percent.

“It’s not cheap to fix,” Norton said. “We have to tear out the path.”

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