After years of the Arroyo Bird Park being maintained by residents as a community-led attraction, it will officially become a city park, aptly named Arroyo Birdhouse Park, after the City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 7, unanimously approved plans to upgrade the popular amenity.
As part of the council’s vote, the city will appropriate $160,000 toward the project that looks to first remove all the existing decorative birdhouses and other ornaments that adorn the park off Calle Arroyo, adjacent to San Juan Creek, before installing new landscaping and native plants, as well as standard birdhouse poles and other amenities for visitors.
“I do think this is a great example of government working, city government working well on behalf of the people, from city staff up to the council, listening to the constituents and turning what could have been a very negative experience for all involved into what I think is going to be a very positive experience,” Mayor Howard Hart said.
The city anticipates the project to get underway this winter with some pre-construction work such as posting signage and notifying the community regarding the removal of items. By the spring, the city is looking to start removing the existing elements, install the planned improvements and then implement the landscaping.
For the project, the city will work with its landscape contractor, Brightview, and its facilities contractor, United Building.
Roughly $25,000 of the total price tag will be spent on the removal of the items, while $42,000 is earmarked for the landscaping and irrigation. About $50,000 is budgeted to install a decomposed granite pathway that will lead from the sidewalk along Calle Arroyo to the park.
Additional elements that will be in the upgraded park include split-rail fencing to define the park’s parameters, benches, picnic tables and signage for the park’s official name: Arroyo Birdhouse Park.
The park was reportedly first established by residents decades ago, and since then, people have stopped by to decorate it with their own birdhouses that they designed.
This past May, city officials, including Hart and Councilmember Troy Bourne, met with residents at the makeshift bird park, where they outlined the city’s intention to modify the park to address safety concerns and meet safety standards.
Kristen Hauptli, the city’s senior management analyst, said the city will take inventory of the birdhouses currently on the site before they’re removed.
“Staff would inspect the current inventory of the birdhouses and identify those in good condition, which would be returned to the park once the improvements are completed,” Hauptli said.
Asked by Councilmember John Taylor whether there will be extra space for residents to still add their own birdhouses to the park following the project, Community Services Manager Heidi Ivanoff affirmed that the community can work with the city on adding new birdhouses.
“We won’t be monitoring the park itself for any new addition of birdhouses, but if they do arrive, we’ll inspect them,” said Ivanoff. “And if anybody wants to add a birdhouse, I’m sure that they will probably come to community services, and we’ll make arrangements to add new birdhouses, as necessary.”
Responding to Mayor Pro Tem Sergio Farias’ inquiry on whether the birdhouses will be cleaned out to accommodate the birds, or “residents” that might use them, Ivanoff said staff will remove ones that are in poor condition, and further confirmed that they won’t clean the homes.
Chip DeSon and Lisa Jaenicke, San Juan residents who became the unofficial leaders in the movement to preserve the park, spoke on Tuesday night about the park’s impact and importance to the community.
“I’m really glad this has gone the way that this has, so that we can have a safe place and a place with really beautiful landscape, the walkways and everything,” Jaenicke said, adding that she and the rest of the community “would like to have it as a really nice place. The people coming along the trails really like to stop.”
“San Juan is unique to begin with, but every now and again, there’s pockets of San Juan where you see things that are very unique to that part of San Juan,” said DeSon who added that “the Birdhouse Park has just always been one of those things where … no one knows much about it, how it got there, but everybody knows where it is and likes it.”
Following the council’s discussion, Bourne motioned to approve staff recommendation to appropriate the $160,000 toward the project and requested the formal name of the park be Arroyo Birdhouse Park, instead of Arroyo Bird Park, which is what it’s more commonly known as.
In a unanimous decision, the Birdhouse Park will be renovated and become an official city park.