Young men play basketball, a popular pastime at Carlos Aguilar Park in El Centro. The hoop backboard is marred by graffiti, a common problem the city and park users hope will abate after planned upgrades. | William Roller photos
EL CENTRO — Although some living near Carlos Aguilar Park on El Centro’s north side had not heard it is about to get a major facelift, a recent visit to the neighborhood found the news enthusiastically received.
The city council recently
approved $2.3 million in upgrades for the park on Pico Avenue west of Imperial
Avenue. Work will include two new soccer fields, a new snack bar and restrooms,
redone sidewalks and a repaved alley. Also included are a new parking lot,
renovated playground equipment, new walking trail, new shaded picnic areas and
a perimeter fence.
The work is expected to be completed in
early 2020, city officials reported.
Park neighbor Armando Villasenor, owner of
Mando’s Stereo, recalled when he first opened his business there were no toys
for his two children so they were often at Aguilar Park
“Our second home,” he called it.
“But it wasn’t set up as a park then. They didn’t have any shade and the
bathrooms were often trashed. But then they got some playground equipment. Better.
A lot of people like to jog or walk around the park and just do exercise.”
While Villasenor said some do not feel
safe in the park, he predicted the upgrades will have a positive impact.
“The improvements will be a very positive
investment for the community and the neighbors are going to appreciate it,”
Amenities May Attract More Use
Kenneth Ansley, a resident of the nearby
Country Club Apartments on Villa Avenue, noted he likes to bring his two sons
Kenneth Jr., 2, and Kenya, 3, to play in the park.
“They just like to run around and go
crazy,” he said. “I’d definitely use the park more now that they’ll
upgrade the bathrooms and other facilities. Why would you want to go all the
way down to Walmart (the closest restroom) or go all the way back to the house?”
Victor Palacio, a retiree and resident of neighboring
Posada Del Sol apartments, admitted he was not too concerned about the park but
noted he does see a lot of elderly walk there.
“Whatever improvements they put in
for the residents is good,” he said. “I go to see a game or two of
the city league softball games. At night, the lights go on automatically. And
the parents bring sodas and water and watch out for their kids who play because
they’re just eight or 10 years old.”
Luis Tony, an Imperial Valley College
student majoring in criminology, stopped by the park to relax with friends on
Nov. 22. He said he occasionally likes to play soccer there.
“It’ll keep the kids out of
trouble,” he said. “And it’s a place you can make friends so it’s a
good idea to make the park improvements.”
Another IVC student and Posada del Sol
resident, Edgar Lopez, explained he likes the park for running and soccer.
“Yeah, it can be better,” he
said. “More restrooms, a baseball field and bike racks.”
Devon Apodaca, executive director of the
Imperial County Humane Society that is adjacent to the park, noted the
improvements would make the area a lot nicer. He suggested if the city were
open to a proposal the Human Society could
hold events at the park for pet adoption, microchipping and spaying/neutering.
“You know what? Definitely having a (better)
park in front of the shelter would make the space a little cleaner, safer and
attract friendlier community members. Having a nicer park can get a lot more of
the community involved and make the area much more inviting,” Apodaca
Park Problems Described
In a presentation prepared for the city
council, Adriana Nava, city Community Services director, explained Aguilar Park
has become dilapidated after 30 years of extended use and a lack of significant
New field lighting was installed in 2014
to serve the existing soccer field and to illuminate a future soccer filed on
the south end that is now a large dirt area.
“The existing restrooms are severely
run down and not compliant” for the disabled, she informed the council.
The playground areas and adjacent picnic
areas are full of graffiti and in a state of disrepair. Also, an alley to the
west of the park that leads to additional parking is in need of reconstruction.