A new park for City Heights

One of two playgrounds at Charles Lewis III Memorial Park

One of two playgrounds at Charles Lewis III Memorial Park

City engineers are just waiting for the new plants to take root before opening Charles Lewis III Memorial Park to the public.

The new recreation area, on Home Avenue in City Heights, has a dog park, half basketball court, space for barbecues, grass to run around on, and two playgrounds.

“It’s a small park, but it has a lot of detail,” said Harry Nguyen, the resident engineer on the project.

The site will bring about 2 acres of usable parkland to a neighborhood that’s about 100 acres short of the city’s goal of 2.8 acres per 1,000 residents.

“It’s really hard to walk to a park, and with this park being built it’s fantastic for me and my daughter,” said Cindy Corona, who lives in the apartment building next door.

Corona said she and her daughter look forward to taking their puppy to the dog park.

Since a 2008 grand jury report on the neighborhood’s park shortage, the city has broken ground on about 5 acres of new parkland there, including the Central Avenue Mini Park, Wightman Street Park and City Heights Square Mini Park.

The acreage doesn’t include projects taken on by residents to turn canyons once used as dumping grounds into usable recreation space with benches, art and trails.

“We had bottles, we had carpets, we had ACs buried five feet down,” said Nguyen of the lot on which Charles Lewis Park now sits.

His crews spent months excavating construction debris and grading the site.

They also restored native plant life in adjacent Auburn Canyon and installed special drainage to keep more trash and sediment from getting into the city’s watershed and storm drains. City spokeswoman Mónica Muñoz said nearby residents already are inquiring about reserving the park for birthday parties.

They’ll have to wait a little while longer. The family of late City Councilman Charles Lewis is expected to cut the ribbon and officially open the park in December.

Meanwhile, construction on another City Heights park is delayed. Central Avenue Mini Park is now expected to open next summer.