REDLANDS, Calif. – The City Council accepted one of the largest single donations made to the City to upgrade a beloved community green space. The Friends of Prospect Park (FOPP) donated $363,000 to the City for a modern energy-efficient lighting system in Prospect Park.
In addition to enhancing the safety and aesthetics of the Park, the project is also expected to save the City approximately 30% of the current operating costs, FOPP wrote.
Prospect Park was purchased by the City in 1968 but is over 100 years old. The group explained that the Park's existing light system has experienced failures and outages over the past decades. In early 2021, City staff inspected the Park's lighting system and determined the existing infrastructure was beyond repairs.
The project will remove and replace existing light poles and fixtures and extend the lighting system to unlit areas of the Park. The plan is to integrate as much of the current electrical system as possible.
On Tuesday night, City Council accepted the bid from VT Electric, Inc. for $471,975.00. The City also received the FOPP donation to cover approximately 80% of the cost. The remainder is being covered by the Unappropriated Funds within the Parks and Recreation category of the Nevada Palmetto Grove Proceeds for $156,172.50.
Friends of Prospect Park
The mission of FOPP is to provide for the perpetuation, beautification, development, and improvement of Prospect Park.
The 36-acre community park is home to trails and picnic areas, the Redlands Summer Theater Festival, the historic Carriage House, the RHIS's Plant Propagation Yard, and 25 acres of citrus trees.
2. City grove to be removed, replanted
Plus plans for a future fire station
To help preserve the history and heritage of orange groves, the City of Redlands owns and farms 20 citrus groves throughout the City.
With help from the Citrus Preservation Commission, the City manages approximately 184 acres of groves. This includes maintenance, harvesting, and replanting groves to sustain their health and economic viability.
Here's a map of the current city-owned groves.
As part of this grove management, The Lugonia Citrus Grove, located in the northeast corner of Redlands, is getting replanted.
The approximately 18-acre grove has been underperforming, with a below-average annual profit of about $645.00 per acre, according to the City's report. This led to a recommendation last year by the Citrus Preservation Commission to replant the grove.
On Tuesday night, City Council approved three contracts to remove the existing citrus trees, install a new irrigation system, and plant new orange trees.
The existing trees will be removed by Washburn Gove Management, Inc., using specialized equipment to grind and mulch existing trees in place. The method is considered the most efficient and environmentally preferred means of tree removal. It will help with the overall health of the grove soil.
Mariposa Landscapes, Inc. will install a new irrigation system and replant the grove. The 2,500 young Washington Navel Oranges will come through Gless Ranch Nursery.
The $227,700 project is funded through Nevada Palmetto Grove sale proceeds.
The City Council approved the contracts unanimously.
There were concerns over the optics of removing the grove and how to communicate the process to the community.
"It's going to seem like it's tearing at our hearts... It'll be very sad to see that grove go down but the good news is it's going to be replanted," said council member Mario Saucedo (District 3).
The City plans to conduct outreach to nearby neighborhoods and the community to explain the process.
Once planted, it takes about three years for the grove to mature.
Future Fire Station
As part of the project to replant the Lugonia Citrus Grove grove, a new fire station may one day be located on one acre of that grove.
A study completed in June 2020 showed that more than half the City (54%) is outside the 4-minute travel response during the non-congested time. That percentage goes up to 67% during congested periods.
The Citygate study identified the northeast corner of Redlands - where Lugonia Citrus Grove is located - as needing a fire facility.
The Redlands Fire Department and Citrus Preservation Committee worked together to identify an acre of the Lugionia Grove, on the corner of Lugonia Ave and Judson Street, as a possible location for a new fire station.
The Citrus Preservation Commission recommended making up for this lost grove acre by replanting another City-owned grove.
Plans for the fire station will be brought back to the City Council at a future date for consideration.
3. City Responds To Animal Shelter Investigation
Major improvements have been made to the City's animal shelter in recent months following an inspection by the San Bernardino Civil Grand Jury.
Members of the Civil Grand Jury visited the Redlands Animal Shelter on two occasions last summer. The grievances are outlined in a 56-page report.
The City of Redlands presented the changes made to the facility in response to the Grand Jury during Tuesday night's meeting.
In June 2022, the Animal Services Division reopened the center for walk-ins, hired a new supervisor and support staff, and contracted the cleaning services. The volunteer program was also reintroduced over the summer, and 15 volunteers started in September 2022.
The animal shelter facility was also updated with new paint, concrete, landscaping, shade sails, and kennel repairs.
Since July of last year, 151 dogs have been adopted, 113 cats, and one bird.
Pet adoptions are listed on 24 Pet Connect. (Enter the zip code 92373 to view pets available from the Redlands Shelter).
If you want to become a volunteer, call (909) 798-7644 for information.
4. EV Parking Only
An ordinance to stop non-electric vehicles from parking in an EV charging spot unanimously passed the City Council. Redlands Interim Police Chief, Rachel Tolber, explained that the problem has grown since the construction of the new parking garage on Streward Ave. The ordinance allows the Police Department to cite or tow vehicles violating the rule.
5. No Dress Code
Finally, one agenda item, referring to a discussion of what City Council members wear, caused a sharp reaction from residents before and during the meeting.
The item was accompanied by a resolution (No. 8451) that proposed "professional" dress standards so that the City Council is "held to the same standards of professionalism as City staff."
On social media and during public comment, residents rejected the idea that the City Council members would be required to follow a dress code. In addition, many residents were unhappy with the time being spent on this topic. Others brought up concerns with the gendered language of the current employee dress code.
The City Attorney explained that city councils generally do not have dress code mandates but may have “guidelines” or “best practices” regarding attire.
After a lengthy discussion, the Council voted unanimously to take no action on a dress code for City Council members.
The full City Council meeting is available to watch here.