Click photo to enlarge
School's out, and Sofia Buitrago, left, 6, Nico Ortega, 4, and Gisel Buitrago enjoy a swinging ride with the help of Nico's dad, Daniel Ortega, at Kennedy Park in Hayward, Calif. on Monday, June 14, 2010. The concessions at the park operate daily from 11:30 to 4:30. (Jim Stevens/Staff)

HAYWARD -- Kennedy Park, which is packed every summer weekend with patrons from throughout the East Bay, could be transformed into a Victorian-style destination under a proposed makeover.

The popular train ride, carousel, petting zoo and playground would remain, but as envisioned, the park would be more closely linked to historic McConaghy House, an 1886 12-room farmhouse that lies just north of it.

New amenities would include a bandstand, a clock tower, two bocce ball courts, covered picnic areas, walking paths and a horseless carriage children's ride.

The draft master plan created by RRM Design Group was shown Thursday to Hayward Area Recreation and Park District directors, who were unanimous in their praise, though no vote was taken at the work session.

"I love it," said HARD board President Louis Andrade. "It's going to be even more popular. It will be delightful for the whole Bay Area."

The playground would be more than twice as large as it is now, and the concession stand would be enlarged and a cafe terrace added. The existing two sets of restrooms would be expanded, with the possibility of adding up to three more. And there would be about 100 more parking spaces.

There was no price tag attached to the plans; the architects will return later this year with estimates of what it will cost for the upgrades. The improvements could be paid for with money from the district's general fund; grants, Measure WW park bond money or a loan, HARD general manager John Gouveia said Friday.


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"Kennedy Park is a park that has a lot of charm and character and potential," Jeff Ferber of RRM told directors Thursday. "But even though the park has a lot going for it, it could be so much better."

A new crosswalk would connect the 13.3-acre park to McConaghy House, and space next to the house would be converted into a formal lawn that could be used for weddings and other outdoor events.

"I love the transition from the park to McConaghy House," said board member Dennis Waespi.

Other new amenities would include a tea cup ride and a splash pad, with recirculated, disinfected water shooting up from the ground. Ferber described a splash pad as a modern version of kids playing in the sprinkler.

The park would be encircled by an old-fashioned wrought iron fence that would help create an intimate feel while increasing security and safety, Ferber said.

"We had a lot of parents say they're a bit nervous about their kids bolting into the street," he said. The park is next to busy Hesperian Boulevard.

The fence also would have patrons enter the park at designated train ride crossings, rather than cutting across the tracks that run close to the perimeter of the park.

While most of the existing amenities would remain, the plan calls for removal of tennis courts behind McConaghy House to add parking, plus taking out about 15 eucalyptus trees to allow access to the house directly from the park. The courts, which are in need of repair, do not get heavy usage, and tree roots have raised pavement and sidewalk concrete, HARD staff members said. No other trees would be removed, and more would be added, Ferber said.

The petting zoo, which has about 60 animals, including goats, geese, sheep and a potbellied pig, would be moved to where the former pony ride stood. The pony ride was shut down last year.

The park, which dates back to at least the 1940s, was last renovated in 1975, Gouveia said. "I'm thrilled with this design and its potential," he said. "The challenge will be the funding."

The architects will come back to the board this summer with more refined plans that will include suggestions on how the proposed features can be phased in. The board will vote on the proposal then.

Director Paul Hodges said he had been of the mindset "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," but the plans won him over.

"You've done a fantastic job of enhancing a beautiful park," he said.

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.