Vandalism requires new lighting at Downey’s Wilderness Park

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Wave Staff Report

DOWNEY — New lighting along the pathway at Wilderness Park should be ready when the park reopens, now that about $2 million in renovations have been completed, city officials say.

New lighting and repairs at the south and west sections of the park, located at Florence Avenue and the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway, are needed because of vandalism of equipment and theft of copper wires, said Public Works Director Delfino R. Consunji in a report to the Downey City Council Feb. 9.

He said the damage was discovered Oct. 9 but staff decided to hold off on repairs until the renovations were completed, he said.

The Downey Police Department is investigating the theft.

The City Council Feb. 9 allocated $115,000 for the work and directed city staff to seek bids for the project.

The park is expected to open in a few weeks. Receipt of bids are expected in about month, Consunji said.

He noted that lights are needed for safety reasons. They also would reduce the likelihood of more thefts and vandalism, he added.

At the time of the wire theft, Wilderness Park was closed to the public due to the construction of Measure S improvements and restoration of ponds. The perimeter of the park was fenced and screened to restrict public access to the facility. However, the fencing reduced visibility of ongoing activities in the park, Consunji noted.

“Construction under Measure S, a city-voter approved 1% sales tax hike, has been completed and the contractor has vacated the site.

“There are still some punch-line items and landscaping-work to be completed. These are currently being addressed,“ Consunji said.

Work started in August 2019, funded by proceeds from Measure S and a $1.6 million grant from the San Gabriel Rivers and Mountains Conservatory.

Park improvements included new restrooms, expanded parking lots, trail upgrades for the handicapped, and three new picnic shelters with tables, benches, grills, trash receptacles and a drinking fountain.

Also constructed was access to the 28-mile bike trail along the San Gabriel River on the west side of the park and educational signs pointing out wetlands and native habitat information, Assistant City Manager John Oskoui said in a previous report.

Another $875,000 was needed to temporarily remove wildlife, drain two ponds in the 2.5-acre area, remove sludge and return wildlife such as fish and migratory birds, Oskoui said.

The Measure S sales tax hike, approved by voters in November 2016, is estimated to bring in $10.2 million annually.

Of that, $5 million was used to make annual payments on the $50 million loan to upgrade all four city fire stations, the police station, the Civic Center area including the library and Civic Theatre and numerous parks including Wilderness.

On another item Feb. 9, City Council agreed to take no action after a discussion on a possible rent control law, a city clerk spokesperson said.

She said the vote was unanimous, 5-0, which means newly elected Councilwoman Catherine Alvarez agreed with the action.

Alvarez was elected Nov. 3 to represent District 4,  on the city’s northwest side, replacing Councilman Rick Rodriguez, who did not seek re-election.

During her campaign she identified herself as a rent control advocate.