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Mission Valley’s Civita Park Honors Site’s Mining History

Sudberry Properties has completed the final $12 million portion of a $37 million park that covers 14.3 acres in its 230-acre Civita housing development in Mission Valley but this is a park like few others.

“It’s not just a park with a lot of grass. It’s a park that has a tremendous variety of experiences and activities,” said Glen Schmidt, president of Schmidt Design Group that designed the park.

“A pretty cool urban park,” was how Sudberry Senior Vice President Marco Sessa described it.

“It’s a highly amenitized public space. It’s not what you would see as a traditional park where you’d see a whole bunch of soccer fields,” Sessa said. “The goal was to have something for everybody.”

Mining Site

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Civita is built on the site of a former sand and gravel mining operation and the new four-acre section of the park pays homage to that history by including an exhibit of mining equipment in what’s been called “The Mining Relic Garden” at the southern edge of the park.

The equipment includes a Caterpillar D8 bulldozer, large augers and conveyor belts.

It’s fenced-off to keep people from climbing on the equipment, but is meant as an educational exhibit to give visitors a sense of the area’s history, Schmidt said.

Rising slowly up the slopped site in a series of terraces, the park also has three other gardens – one of which is a scent garden planted with aromatic plants and another that is designed to attract birds and butterflies with bird houses and a bird bath with a bronze sculpture of a dove sitting on it.

Playgrounds

There also are two playgrounds – one for children aged two to five and one for children aged five to 12.

“Each of the play areas has a large shade structure so parents can enjoy that space,” Schmidt said.

The playgrounds include rock climbing walls, giant tree trunks set horizontally, rope bridges, swings and spinners.

“There’s actually over 100 feet of climbing walls that are sculpted to emulate a bluff that is very similar to what the canyon edge looked like when they excavated it for the mining operation,” Schmidt said.

The tree trunks made for climbing on are from redwood trees salvaged from Balboa Park, Schmidt said.

There’s also a bocce ball court and outdoor ping pong tables.

ADA accessible pathways wind their way through the park, leading up to Lookout Meadow, a secluded area with a pavilion designed for informal gatherings and group events such as weddings, birthday parties and small concerts.

The area can be reserved through the city Parks and Recreation Department.

A Tribute

Lookout Meadow also has a 10-foot-high frame, as in something that would frame a photograph.

Fabricated by San Diego sculptor Amos Robinson, The Frame honors the late Ken Grant, who was an avid photographer and had a hand in designing the park.

“Ken loved photography. We just thought it would be fitting,” Schmidt said.

The Grant family owned the property from the early 1900s, when Franklin and Alta Grant bought it in hopes of finding oil but turned it into a rock and sand quarry that the family operated for more than 70 years.

Portions of the park that were built earlier won awards from the Urban Land Institute’s San Diego/Tijuana District, the American Society of Landscape Architects and the San Diego Architectural Foundation.

The overall park has 30 bronze animal figures created by Encinitas sculptor James Nelson and his late wife, T.J. Dixon.

Working with Sudberry and Schmidt Design Group in building the park were Hazard Construction Company, Architects HGW, Rick Engineering and BrightView Landscapes.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a bit of a slow-down in the construction of the final portion of the park but nothing that was insurmountable, Sessa said.

On the bright side, Sessa said that the delay meant there was more time for plants in the park’s gardens to get established.

In all, Civita will ultimately have 60 acres of public parks, open space and trails. 

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