WATSONVILLE—Less than a week after crews began construction of a new restroom in the City Plaza, the city of Watsonville was awarded a $3.5 million grant from State Parks to renovate the entire historic downtown park.
The grant was announced Wednesday evening as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Outdoors for All” initiative. In all, the state will distribute $548.3 million to help fund the construction or renovation of 112 parks.
The allocation represents the single-largest investment in state history in expanding access to parks in underserved communities, with new or enhanced parks funded in every region of California, according to State Parks.
“People from all over the world come to visit our state’s natural wonders, but too many Californians today lack access to parks and open space in their own neighborhoods,” Newsom said in a press release. “This historic investment will revitalize and create new parks in more than 100 local communities, dramatically expanding access to the outdoors across the state and ensuring more Californians from all walks of life can reap the benefits for our hearts, minds and bodies for generations to come.”
In Watsonville, the state grant will help the City fulfill the community’s long-standing desire to restore key features of the City Plaza to their historic grandeur, preserving them for the enjoyment of future generations, the city said in a press release.
Integrating new recreational features and upgrading the park’s infrastructure will help accommodate 20-plus annual events and the weekly farmers’ market in and around the Plaza.
The city also plans to update the iconic gazebo in the center of the park, renovate the historic community fountain, improve landscaping and lighting throughout the park and add a permanent stage. It will also add additional seating areas, game tables, group picnic areas, a play station, public art, a circular walkway around the middle of the plaza, a drinking fountain with a bottle-filling station, bicycle parking, improved electrical infrastructure to facilitate events and performances and signage to highlight the historical elements of the park.
An outline for the renovation was approved by the Watsonville City Council in 2019. City staff then used that plan to apply for the state grant awarded this week.
“Our Watsonville Plaza represents the heart of our community,” Mayor Jimmy Dutra said in a press release. “For generations, it has offered a place for the community to gather and for children to play. We are extremely excited and fortunate to be receiving this grant in order to move forward the revitalization of the plaza. This is yet another project that our city will be able to implement in our beautiful city.”
Work began Thursday on the construction of a new restroom facility.
Also years in the making, the new self-cleaning facility will feature two stalls and self-locking doors, said Parks and Community Services Director Nick Calubaquib.
“With weather permitting, the new restrooms should be completed by the end of February or the beginning of March,” Calubaquib said. “This is an exciting change for our downtown.”
The overall cost is $450,000.
The Watsonville Parks and Recreation Commission also approved a mural featuring several iconic Watsonville locations to be painted on the exterior walls of the facility.
Workers have erected 6-foot high chain-link fences around the construction site, which won’t disturb the farmers market that unfolds each Friday.