SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and members of the Mission Bay Park Committee were on hand Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of a revitalization project at the Bonita Cove playground.
The half-acre playground will receive a new shade structure, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks and curb ramps and improved lighting. The city will spend $3.4 million on the renovations, funded through 2008's Proposition C and 2016's Proposition J.
Once the renovations are completed, the city will rename the playground after former Mission Bay High School Principal Maruta Gardner, who was killed in 2016 by a drunken driver while cleaning graffiti off a sidewalk in Mission Beach. That driver was later sentenced to 11 years in prison.
“She would be smiling here today,” said Jeanne Mershon, a friend of Gardner. “Maruta and I walked around all the playgrounds in Mission Beach. We found this one was the one that was the worst one. Plus, there were razor blades sitting at the base of where those trees are that were such a danger to kids. We thought what could we do?”
Gardner tried to raise money to improve the park at Bonita Cove, but she realized it would take millions more than she was capable of raising alone.
"Thanks to the voters, the revenue generated by hotels and other leaseholds on Mission Bay's public parklands is now being spent to improve Mission Bay Park," Faulconer said. "The Bonita Cove project, in particular, holds a special meaning for this community who have pushed to ensure it will be named after a beloved San Diegan who spent her entire life in service of her city."
Faulconer approved more than $40 million last year in improvements to various areas of Mission Bay Park. The city has also completed or has plans to complete dredging work in the bay, parking lot resurfacing and playground and comfort station improvements in multiple areas and upgrades to the fitness and recreation facilities on East Mission Bay and Robb Field.