Following a public presentation on proposed design elements for Stockmen’s Park in downtown Livermore, Dave Finster stepped up to the microphone.
“I’m here on behalf of the Livermore Stockmen’s Rodeo Association and myself as a fourth-generation citizen of Livermore. We support this design,” said Finster, president of the association. “It has everything that we wanted in a park.”
Referring to a bronze model of the statue that will take center stage in the park, he added, “What we set out to represent was back in 1918, when guys were going off to fight in World War I. The artist came up with exactly what we envisioned: he’s putting on his WWI helmet, and holding his cowboy hat in his other hand as he is leaving.”
The park’s design elements were presented to the Planning Commission on August 21. Although the park’s design details will need fine tuning along the way, commissioners expressed enthusiasm for the general design.
Staff asked the Planning Commission recommend that the City Council take the following actions: instruct staff to file the Notice of Determination with the Alameda County Clerk; adopt a resolution approving the Downtown Core Plan Landscape Design Guidelines; and adopt a resolution approving Stockmen’s Park design and direct staff to proceed with preparing construction plans, specifications, and estimates to bid and construct Stockmen’s Park. The motion, with minor amendments addressing design details, passed 3 to 0, with Loretta Kaskey, Neal Pann and Erik Bjorkland voting in favor. Regina Bonanno and Bryan Fagundes were absent.
Jacob Anderson, who spoke during the public hearing, said, “I almost get a little emotional seeing it all come together, being a lifelong Livermore resident. I see Livermore’s heritage starting to shine downtown, and I know that heritage will continue on. Future residents will get to see what Livermore was founded on. Then, to honor veterans with such a beautiful monument really excites me. I want to see this process continue and for us to get this as soon as possible, but also as beautiful as possible.”
City Planner Andy Ross was joined by RRM Design Group’s Lief McKay and Gina Chavez to deliver the presentation.
“The intent of the guidelines is to complement the existing places and create synergy with them through links and other visual cues,” Ross said. “We heard from the community that they want to feel safe and secure in this space, and also that shade and seating were important in the park.”
The park features an expanse of lawn shaped like a horseshoe.
“The first thing you’ll see is the new eye-catching, elegant gateway that frames the park inside,” said McKay, who described for attendees the experience of walking through the park. “You step through that and you’re in the park’s ‘lobby,’ if you will – a wider area where you can choose your direction. To the left and right, a horseshoe-inspired pathway takes you around the perimeter of the park’s central lawn. The pathway is flanked by patio dining; we’re making the assumption that some of the new buildings will have food service components that will help activate the space, which is helpful for keeping places alive. The path is about 10 feet wide – a very graceful proportion where you can walk, two to a side, or get around with a stroller. There’s a seat wall that is punctuated with openings, so it’s a porous edge, but it allows informal seating in both directions. Sprinkled throughout are interactive, engaging art pieces – things that kids are encouraged to touch and climb on.”
At the mouth of the horseshoe is an open plaza, which will serve as flexible space for activities such as theatrical productions, or food and wine events. At one end of the horseshoe is a black box theater, and at the other is the Science & Society Center.
Rachael Snedecor, executive director of Downtown Livermore, said, “What’s most exciting to us is that everything is so inclusive of our community. We’re not segregating based on age or interest; we are truly unifying a community that has multiple interests and multiple backgrounds. That’s been a beautiful thing to watch in our community. I love that we have a Science and Society Center and a Shakespeare theater that are okay with having children play between them. I don’t know what to say except ‘Get ‘er done’ in the words of the Stockmen.”
The designing of Stockmen’s Park offered opportunities for public participation through various platforms, including an online and paper survey, a public open house, and two farmers’ market pop-up events.
Lisa Tromovitch, artistic director for the Livermore Shakespeare Festival, said of the process, “The collaboration has been wonderful. Stakeholders and neighbors were informed of opportunities to express our opinions, and it’s been an easy process. I endorse the city moving forward with this design. It represents a great opportunity for families to have a safe place to gather downtown, and is an elegant design that represents Livermore well.”
The staff report notes that while the design isn’t intended to mimic First Street, it is intended to provide an integrated feel throughout the downtown area with elements such as benches, landscaping, and bulb outs at crosswalks. Stockmen’s Park will clearly reflect Livermore’s ranching heritage.
“When we met with the Stockmen early on, an idea that was brought forward was collecting cattle brands of Livermore Valley families and representing those through the park,” McKay said. “You can imagine the brands etched into the stone and concrete adding a subtle layer of rich detailing.”
The Stockmen’s Park project is scheduled for City Council consideration on September 24.
“As far as the community goes, all the different people who came together – Livermore Shakespeare, the Science and Society Center, and numerous other downtown groups – this truly is a community park,” said Finster. “I encourage City Council to keep moving on this. It sure is nice to see progress being made.”