BRAWLEY – After six years in the making, Brawley city officials and locals gathered for the grand re-opening of Alyce A. Gereaux Park and new splash pad Tuesday morning and students of J.W. Oakley Elementary School were the first ones to play in the splash pad area.
Back in the summer of 2011, Karin Morgan, former Brawley Parks and Recreation director, submitted a grant application to the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation. After applying for the grant twice, the city was awarded the $2.7 million grant in June of 2012, according to Morgan.
“The project took a great length of time, but it was well worth it,” Morgan said. “Nothing would’ve happened without everyone’s help. I’m with all my four grandchildren and they’re having a great time – that speaks volumes. I was fortunate to work for the city.”
The renovated park now includes a splash pad with lighting and security cameras, a lighted multi-use athletic field, an educational walking trail, ADA-accessible playground equipment, numerous larger-than-life sculptures of desert treasures, a picnic area, new restrooms and storage area, and a drought-tolerant garden and landscape area.
The Rainforest Art Project cooperated with the Brawley Elementary School District and sixth grade students from J.W. Oakley Elementary School in the development of the art pieces. Kimley Horn and Associates was the project designer and Aquatic Design group designed the new splash pad.
Craig Casey, a long life resident of Brawley and principal of Oakley School for 19 years, confirmed with pride that by being part of the application process and interviewing students for the design of the amenities, the school will now have great use of the park for next year’s students.
Involved with the art in the project, Dan Evers, director of the San Diego Rainforest Art Project, said it incorporated the talent and vision within the community of Brawley since he worked with the students on the design of the art elements.
“Our kids have ideas that you can’t even imagine. I have huge respect for them, the Brawley Unified School District and staff, and city management. It was great working side by side with artists and bringing their true talent to these kids,” Evers said.
Mayor Sam Couchman expressed his delight with the great work and effort from Parks and Recreation members, city employees and the public safety staff and their skills in re- building one of the oldest parks in the city.
“This park remained true to its roots,” Couchman said. “We in the city of Brawley love our park and we know the community will take care of this park for our children and many years to come.”
Mayor Pro Tempor Helen Noriega admitted that seeing the renovated park was personally emotional for her as she grew up three blocks away, and saw how the improvements will now have an impact on the community.
George A. Nava, another city council member, said the community should embrace with pride the beauty of the park since it has overcome vandalism and now will become the city’s new attraction.
Councilman Donnie Wharton acknowledged that the renovated park is now part of the city’s history and the significance it will have on future generations.
“This is something that really happens once in a lifetime. The park will give our children a place to recreate, to compete and a place where they’ll come together and learn,” Wharton said.