Vacant lot transformed into multi-use neighborhood park

For years, an empty lot at the bottom of Wightman Street in City Heights held nothing more than overgrown weeds and a few large trees. But on Tuesday, Aug. 29, City leaders unveiled a beautiful community park, the result of $3.4 million project that began in 2014.

“We said we could build it here and have a park we are very proud of,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “To everybody in this neighborhood, I say congratulations and a job well done for your persistence.”

Community leaders and neighbors showed up to celebrate the opening of Wightman Street Neighborhood Park, which they describe as a long-awaited dream come true. The park features two playground areas, a basketball court, accessible walking trails, lighting, a shaded picnic area and benches.

“It makes me feel good having this park here now, kids can play, I can play out here,” said Terry Cunningham who took a few minutes to try out the new basketball court. “I don’t gotta go all the way to Colina Park now, this is right here closer to me across the street.”

For more than a decade, community activists in City Heights have been pushing for development of this space, which they had described as “crime-ridden.” Nestled between two large multi-family apartment buildings, the park is also walking distance from the City Heights Prep Charter School.

“Back about 10 years ago when we first visited the site, we realized this could make a great park,” said Andy Field, Assistant Director of the Park and Recreation Department. “This neighborhood was underserved with a lack of park space. Now, look at it, it’s a gorgeous recreational facility.”

Planning for the new park took several environmental factors into consideration. Built along Chollas Creek, the project improves drainage flow and restores natural plant species found in the area. Interpretive signage around the park helps educate people about Chollas Creek, an urban waterway that drains into San Diego Bay.

During Tuesday’s grand opening celebration, supporters recognized the significance of bringing a new park to this community.

“There are over 35 languages spoke here in City Heights, so when a community can come together for a project that is so important not only to this community but to all of City Heights, we are very blessed to bring everyone together for a common goal,” said Russ Connelly, Chair of the City Heights Area Planning Committee.

For more information on parks in the City of San Diego, visit sandiego.gov/parks.

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