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Much Money Has Been Spent Making Southwest Corner Presentable ~ SD Union, February 4, 1904

SAN DIEGO UNION
FEBRUARY 4, 1904, 3:1

THE WORK ON THE CITY PARK

Partial Review of What is Being Done by the Park Improvement Committee

Much Money Has Been Spent in Making the Southwest Corner Presentable – Something of the Controversy

Editor, Union. I have asked Mrs. M. B. Coulston, the secretary of the park plans committee, to write several articles concerning the work that is to be done on the park so that the public may be well informed on all these matters.

If any defense is made against certain criticisms of the plans, it will be made in no spirit of controversy, but simply to show, as clearly as possible, the reasons for the plans and their importance to the park design. The committee is trying to the best of its ability to lay sound foundations for a great and beautiful park. The opportunity is unique and extraordinary. If wisely used, the results will be of surprising attraction. The work that is now being done is not showy and is carried on under unusual difficulties, but there can be no question as to its absolute necessity and great value for the future. That this may be appreciated more fully and win the public confidence is the object of these letters.

GEORGE W. MARSTON

WORK BEING DONE AT SOUTHWEST CORNER

The southwest section of the park, by reason of nearness to the center of the city, convenience of access and beautiful outlook, has naturally been the first point to be improved in work carried on by the park improvement committee. The rough and despoiled condition of this corner, where the natural hillside had for many years been dug into to get earth to fill city streets, was no small discouragement on account of the immense amount of labor required to bring it into good condition, and the great expense involved.

The present plan for roads was decided upon and approved by the landscape architects and the park committee after mature study and consideration as being the best for all reasons. Unfortunately, as is the case in so many parts of San Diego, there is a ‘jog’ at Sixth and Date streets, made by discrepancies in the original surveys thirty years ago. This irregularity carries the southwest corner of the park forty two feet west of the line of Sixth street and seventeen and a half feet south of the line of Date street. It is the adjustment and treatment of the irregularity caused by this ‘jog’, which has led to the desire on the part of several residents to have the plans of the landscape architects changed to meet their personal preferences.

On the west boundary, the road plans, as shown on the map of Messrs. Parsons & Cooke for the parkway, meet with no opposition from owners of abutting property. The opposition to this roadway has been raised and carried on by a few people to the south of Date street. Sixth street now ends at the south line of Date street. There is no more force in a claim that this street continue on into park land, than that Seventh street, or any other city street, continue into the park. It has been planned to have a parkway around the boundary of the park wherever this is practicable. But deep canyons and such other irregularities in contours and outlines as this at Sixth and Date, make it necessary to fit special plans to special conditions.

The park plans place an eighty feet parkway north of Date street along the west boundary line of the park, and provide a roadway fifty-two feet wide with fourteen foot sidewalks on each side. On account of the canyon north of Fir street, this park road can be built for a length of but two blocks, from Date to Fir streets. As the park extends forty-two feet west of the line of Sixth street, his parkway naturally runs forty-two feet further west. In looking north on Sixth street below Date only a portion of the width of the parkway is seen, the receded, rounded corner of the park coming into view. The petition is for the continuance of Sixth street straight into the park, thus making the monstrosity of a roadway six hundred feet long, having a width of one hundred and twenty-two feet. In the case of the west boundary, the petition is against an existing ‘jog’ for which the present park workers are wholly irresponsible. In the case of the south boundary, the petition is for the establishment of a new ‘jog’ and the loss of the beauty and charm of a very effective strip of parking.

The grading work done during July and August at the southwest corner of the park cost $3,000 (?) and much more will be required to finish grading and planting that section. This the park improvement committee is prepared to expend now, and the committee proposes to make an attractive park of all this corner. The forty-two feet, which the petition asks to have cut from the park and added to the eighty-foot street has been reclaimed from cliffs and holes and put into the present slope at this large cost, so as to produce the best park effects, and not to make a useless street out of all reasonable proportion. No advantage has been claimed for this one-hundred and twenty-two feet wide street except that people south of Date street, looking north, would thus see a street, which they prefer instead of seeing a park, which they seem to think would be offensive and objectionable. The eighty-foot roadway as planned answers every purpose of convenience and harmonious adjustment. And just here it may be said that hard and fast straight lines and angles are not the first requisites of park making. A certain irregularity, the result of curving lines and variety of contours with elements of change, surprise and natural beauty, are at the very basis of park construction.

Other cogent reasons exist for the eighty-foot road on the west boundary as planned by the landscape architects. A roadway extending opposite Sixth street would require heavy cutting into the hillside facing Fir street, and result in the same sort of defilement to the park that it has already cost so much to correct near the corner to southward. The effect of such cutting would be disastrous in spoiling park conditions and possibilities and in enforced outlay of money. There are already too many of this sort of raw banks in the park, as at Tenth street and easterly in succession toward the Russ school. This proposition of running the road into the side of the steep hill near Fir street is really unpractical and prohibitory.

There is yet another potent reason for the eight-foot road to be placed along the west boundary. The elevation of the present site of the brick monuments will for many years to come be the most popular viewpoint in the park. Here thousands of tourists will get their first and lasting impression of the magnificent natural scenery of San Diego, in the sweeping outlook over land and sea. Here too citizens will resort for outing and enjoyment. In general, it is a practice of park construction to shut out views of the nearby city. At his point in San Diego park, under different conditions, the city is necessarily kept in sight. But, at this vantage point, it is highly desirable that some park affects be afforded before the eye catches the long foreground of buildings in the outlook toward the bay, ocean, islands, Point Loma, Point of Rocks and mountains of Mexico. Every one of the few feet of park land in this direction, is valuable beyond price for its use as a park, and should not be perverted for a mistakenly designed and absolutely needless street.

Another article must serve to explain conditions existing along the north boundary of the park, and the treatment proposed by the landscape architects.

M. B. COULSTON


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