by Cristina Davis, Hot Springs Village Evening Lions
Celebrating a 50th anniversary is impressive, but being the first service organization to accomplish this in Hot Springs Village is a stellar accomplishment. Our own Hot Springs Village Evening Lions Club wanted to celebrate this milestone in grand fashion, so they decided to design a project highlighting their commitment to the community. The park idea germinated from a pitch from Lion Larry Bauer, who wanted to place some Baggo courts on the beach for summer play. As the Lions began exploring ideas, the plan mushroomed into an entire park, complete with a volleyball court, playground area, and picnic area.
As Lions began putting the pencil to the paper, then Lion President John Sawyer realized this would require collaborative networking. Committees were formed to develop a park concept to take to the POA for approval, as well as a committee to publicize and fundraise. The Park Planning Committee immediately connected with Dawn Shafer of French Architects to sketch a prototype for the park. This enabled current President Terry Sterzik and his Fundraising Committee to begin its task. Lion members immediately jumped in, making the first donations and funding one-third of the approximately $40,000 project. Lions then canvassed the community, soliciting donations and planning specific fundraisers to assist in raising the remainder of the funds.
The project hit a few bumps along its 18-month journey. The original plan had the entire playground near the shoreline of Balboa Beach. After visiting with POA General Manager Kelly Hale, the POA and ACC board approved a split design, with a picnic shelter and volleyball court along the beach side and the main playground and Baggo court area on the shaded tree side.
Terry Wiley, along with his team at the POA Parks and Recreation Department, were instrumental in executing the setup for the park, moving rocks, sanding the playground area, and providing additional picnic tables to the area. As the playground equipment began to arrive, they also helped install some larger pieces to ensure proper placement and safety. Chairperson of the Park Planning Committee, Lion Pete Beck, played a crucial part in acquiring and rehabbing a Lion statue for the park as well as soliciting help from Cooper Concrete, Godwin Landscaping, and Fountain Lake Monument to finish out the park with a flag post and monument sign to commemorate the Lions work and acknowledge the myriad of sponsors that brought this project to fruition.
On May 6, with all the final pieces in place, the Lions hosted the Balboa Park and Playground Dedication Ceremony. With John Chapman as emcee, the Lions could thank sponsors and gift the park to the community. The event was highlighted by the Hot Springs Village VFW Post 10483 / American Legion Post 0123 Honor Guard raising of the flag and reveille. Father Bruce Limozaine led the invocation, and Past President John Sawyer and President Terry Sterzik spoke to acknowledge the community efforts. The Chamber of Commerce closed out the event with an official ribbon cutting.