La Mesa builds on 2012 centennial celebration with grand opening of Legacy Park
Happy, sunny-tempered La Mesa residents came together in the early evening on Wednesday, June 29, for the grand opening of their city’s newest pocket park at the corner of La Mesa Boulevard and Allison Avenue. The crowd filling the small park spilled over onto adjacent streets.
Formerly a traffic island, the triangular property holds amenities and three lovely public art pieces -- a stunning six-sided mosaic and stained glass gazebo displaying historical symbols from La Mesa’s rich past, a 450-pound bronze snail statue and an heirloom free-standing pedestal clock.
Inspiration and approval for the installation, known as Legacy Park, developed during the city’s centennial year of 2012. Donations and proceeds from those 100-year celebratory events funded the project, which cost around $165,000 to complete. The Dominguez family of artists Jesus, Mary Lynn and Amy, designed and created the colorful gazebo, which they called “The Lookout,” in acknowledgment of La Mesa Boulevard’s earlier title of Lookout Avenue. Jesus, who taught sculpture at San Diego State University, cast the large bronze snail, named “Felix the Helix,” in a nod to famed scientist Louis Agassiz having discovered the previously undetected species Helix aspersa in 1872 on land that would later be known as Mt. Helix. The monument clock was a gift to the city from two joint donors, the nonprofit organization La Mesa Beautiful and local businessman Jim Simpson, owner of Time and Treasures, in memory of his late son, Ryan.
Yvonne Garrett, assistant city manager of La Mesa, welcomed audience members, saying, “What an exciting evening.” She next turned the proceedings over to Dr. Mark Arapostathis, mayor of La Mesa, who conducted the ceremony, delivering brief remarks to those assembled in and around the new park. Dr. A informed those attending that the intent had been to create a new, recognizable gathering place, and that city leaders’ expectation was that people would say of the spot in the future, “Meet me at The Lookout.” Thinking during the centennial was that, together with planned renovations of La Mesa’s Downtown Village area, Legacy Park would become the eastern gateway to a revitalized business district. He described the public art features as “vibrant,” and pointed to several details of the installed pieces, including the stylized, faceted ruby atop the mosaic gazebo, which reminds of La Mesa’s city motto as “Jewel of the Hills.”
Dr. A praised the Dominguez family for their “many hours” dedicated to what he said was “indeed a labor of love.” He urged attendees, “Walk around and enjoy the park.” And he further said, “When you have visitors and have them touring around La Mesa, bring them here.” He concluded, referring to the city’s business branding campaign slogan, “Dine. Shop. Explore. La Mesa,” and observed that Legacy Park was another piece in those efforts to bolster the city.
The Dominguez family members chose a hexagonal gazebo design to reflect the “small-town feeling” of the La Mesa Village. The six wall panels of the artwork display significant themes of La Mesa history, from the city’s beginnings, its agricultural heritage, early Western movie making at the “Flying A” studio, the “Colt-Pony-Little League Champs” that won the 1961 Little League Championship, the annual La Mesa Flag Day Parade, and the city’s fall festival Oktoberfest. Mosaic-studded columns separate the gazebo panels, and another tiled column contains a plaque listing the names of major donors that supported the project.
The day’s festivities included burying of a time capsule, set to be unearthed in 2062 at the city’s 150th anniversary of La Mesa’s incorporation in 1912. Selected for the capsule were such items as centennial memorabilia, historical publications and photographs, and lists of volunteers and contributors. Other community dignitaries on hand for the park opening were members of the La Mesa City Council, Police Chief Walt Vasquez, and Miss La Mesa 2016 Susanna Wiggins, and Miss Teen La Mesa 2016 Jennifer Barillas.