Edie Macdonald Park was left half-finished when the 2.5-acre site was opened to the public in Elk Grove’s Camden area in 1997.
Visitors had little more than a small playground, a grass area, and an acre-sized vacant lot that was often full of tall grass and weeds. Strangers used the unfinished spot as a dumping ground for junk such as refrigerators and mattresses.
A lack of adequate maintenance funding caused local parks provider, the then-Elk Grove Community Services District (CSD) to leave the park incomplete 25 years ago.
In the late 2010s, several neighbors had enough when further maintenance cuts to the park led to blight such as dry grass, a broken water fountain, and underwatered sycamore trees.
“The sycamore trees were all dying,” neighbor Jill Jones recalled. “That really hit home with people when we started talking.”
Jones along with a dozen neighbors formed the Save Our Macdonald Park campaign to restore the park. They knocked on the doors of more than 450 houses to encourage local property owners to vote via a mail ballot in favor of raising their annual park maintenance assessment fees in order to complete the park and maintain it.
Jones noted they had to revisit each home a few times to make sure that neighbors heard about their campaign and to see if they received the survey that asked them if they’re willing to pay the increased fees.
Following an 83% vote in support of the new fees in 2019, the CSD parks staff renovated Macdonald Park in a $1.1 million construction project and they reopened the site this spring. They hosted a reopening party there during the afternoon of May 14.
“Every single day, it’s always active,” Save Our Macdonald Park campaigner Mary Grosjean said while she looked at the families enjoying the park. “(The CSD) did such a good job and it brings the community together. Every age is enjoying it.”
The new park includes two playgrounds, two adult fitness areas, a shaded picnic area, and a basketball half-court. Each amenity was requested by neighbors when the CSD designed the renovated park.
Parent Zach Gibbs was impressed by the results.
“It’s better than the eyesore that was here before – it looked like a nuclear waste dump,” he said while standing with his children at a playground there. “The playgrounds are great for my kids.”
Neighbor Ruben Plaza sat at the park with his Boston Terrier, Bentley.
“They did really good with the playground and giving kids a lot of area to play in,” he said. “We like the dog water fountain.”
The CSD parks staff also installed a nature garden with a spiral path at the east side of the park.
“There was a big mound of dirt with weeds,” Jones said about the garden site’s former appearance. “Right down the middle was weeds this high – that’s why we did the nature park there, it was already a mound of dirt.”
CSD officials thanked the efforts of Jones and other neighborhood volunteers who helped restore Macdonald Park. The district’s board president, Jaclyn Moreno presented a plaque dedicated to them. Plans are to display that dedication on a boulder at the park.
“Finally, it’s open,” Moreno told the crowd at the celebration. “Looking around today, you’d never know that Macdonald Park is now 25 years old; it’s truly a brand-new play space.”
She then spoke about the park’s troubled financial history that’s based on maintenance fees collected by property owners within the park site’s Landscape and Lighting benefit zone. Under state law, a parks district can only increase their annual park maintenance fees by gaining ballot approval by affected property owners.
Moreno described Jones as a “community champion” in her campaign to complete Macdonald Park. She noted that the local neighborhood’s 83% acceptance of new maintenance fees was the highest approval of such fees in CSD history.
“We’re so incredibly grateful to have people in the community that care so much about their parks and their community that they’re willing to take time out of their busy lives to make sure this stuff gets done and that we have the money to continue to maintain it,” Moreno said.
Edie Macdonald Park was named after a prominent Elk Grove community member who co-founded the Elk Grove Historical Society in 1977, and served on the Elk Grove-Cosumnes Cemetery District board for 13 years.
Macdonald Park is at 8601 Spring Azure Way.