City plans to open Three Oaks Park this summer

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By Brandon McCapes
Express Correspondent

Unsatisfactory tree conditions are causing the delay of one of the newest parks from opening to the community.

Three Oaks Park, within the Stones Throw’s subdivision in northwest Winters, was expected to enter a 90-day maintenance period this month, the last step before it would open to the public. However, according to City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa, the park was deemed not ready to enter the maintenance period in April, as planned, after an inspection in late March by city staff and an arborist found conditions unsatisfactory.

Construction of the 10-acre park is the responsibility of Stones Throw’s current developer, Homes By Towne, although the park was originally planned in 2005 with the original developer, who has since exited. Homes By Towne is responsible for construction of the park under a cap of $3.2 million, and after construction is complete, the City of Winters will take over maintenance of the space.

“There is additional work that needs to be done to bring the park to a satisfactory condition before the maintenance period begins,” Trepa wrote in a City Manager Update March 25. “Unfortunately, the park opening will be delayed by several months as a result. Our goal is to ensure the park landscaping and amenities meet specifications prior to (the city) taking over maintenance. The sooner the park meets standards, the sooner it will open to the public.”

The planned park will cover three long, narrow blocks, bordered north-south by Moody Slough Road and Vasey Street, and east-west by Taylor Street and Scotts Way, and its development has been planned in two phases. The delays pertain to the north half of the park currently under construction in phase one, consisting of two two-acre parcels, the first beginning at Moody Slough Road and ending at Niemann Street, and the second beginning at Niemann Street and ending at Chapman Street.

The final and largest parcel of the park, between Chapman Street and Vasey Street, on which construction has not begun, will include space for informal soccer and baseball fields. There is no current estimate as to when construction on the southern part of the park could begin or end.

When complete and after the maintenance period has ended, the north part of the park will include two dog parks (one for large dogs, another for small dogs), a combination basketball and futsal court, a “phenomenal” play structure, picnic space and grassy areas — in addition to 352 trees.

Trepa told the Winters Express that the delays were in large part due to the state of the trees. In their inspection last month, city staff found that many of the trees were unhealthy or had died, and that they were not fit enough to enter the maintenance period ,as they would still be too vulnerable should members of the public enter the space as soon as June as previously planned. The maintenance period, which is required to give plant life a chance to establish itself before the public enters, cannot begin until the plants are established enough to survive it.

According to city staff and the consulting arborist, 22 percent (77) of the trees were stressed, were not good specimens or had died. Furthermore, many of the trees have not “leafed out,” as it is early in the season, and will need the chance to mature through spring before they are strong enough to withstand the presence of the public. The other main problems the city found include the turf, which will have to be completely redone, and the irrigation system.

“The amenities are in, but we have looked at the landscaping and it’s not in the condition we feel is ready to go into 90-day main period,” Trepa said.

“When it opens to the public, it will take a beating so we need to give the plants time to be established.”

She also said that Homes By Towne has not reached its $3.2 million cap yet, and that the city is working to review the developer’s expenses to get a better understanding of the situation and plans for the anticipated second phase of construction. Trepa said the cost of rehabilitating or replacing the trees and turf while improving the irrigation system will not be included in the $3.2 million cap.

“Any of the work they need to correct does not go under the cap, because they had an obligation to build the park,” Trepa said.

According to Trepa, relations with Homes By Towne are good, but the developer hired a contractor to build the park, and the contractor has been mired by labor and material shortages, negatively affecting construction up to this point.

“Unfortunately, what has plagued this park are labor and material shortages. Everybody is experiencing shortages right now,” Trepa said.

Development agreements like the one related to Stones Throw’s are used by cities to get some developers, who are eager to build and sell homes, to also build infrastructure for the communities they construct.

As for when the north half of the park will open, Trepa said it will be four months at the earliest, as the maintenance period must still proceed for 90 days after the work is complete and up to standards.

“I find it highly unlikely the park would open before four months. That would be the soonest it could open and would depend on how fast the developer and contractor moved,” Trepa said.

Staff and Homes By Towne are working on amendments concerning the park and the vernal pool preserve to the northeast of Stones Throw’s, for consideration by the city council at a future date.

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