Cupertino implements city park renovation projects

Jollyman and Memorial Parks undergo remodeling


Lily Jiang

Construction vehicles are parked at the previous pond area of Memorial Park, one of the Cupertino parks undergoing refurbishment.

Crystal Cheng and Lauren Chuu

Two Cupertino parks — Memorial Park and Jollyman Park — are undergoing remodeling to make the sites more accessible for the local community.

Memorial Park

As described in the project description for the Memorial Park Ponds Repurposing Project, Cupertino’s Capital Improvement Program plans to remove the ponds, then backfill and grade the area, modify the park irrigation system and finally install landscaping, turf and minor paving. The Memorial Park Amphitheater will also undergo construction for technical improvements. The most recent version of the plans was created and approved in April of 2022, and construction began on June 23, 2022.

Cupertino City Engineer Chad Mosley recalls that discussion around renovating the Memorial Park ponds first began when issues about the ponds were brought up in 2013. Due to their age and size, the ponds were leaking a large amount of water. Additionally, the ponds required  700,000 gallons of water to fill, wasting at least 2.6 million gallons per year. In 2013, when Mosley and his team were tasked with minimizing water use due to drought restrictions, the city looked into the possible options for what to do about the ponds and ultimately made the decision to drain them. 

“For a while, certain people wanted to keep the ponds, so we left them there and evaluated [the] options,” Mosley said. “As the drought continued and we [continued] to not fill those ponds, I think people’s sentiments began to change, and then there was an idea of ‘why not get rid of the ponds?’” 

Junior Noah Vin echoes this response. In the years after the ponds were drained, Vin remembers feeling disappointed to see the empty ponds because he felt that Memorial Park “was unique because of the ponds.” Now, he is regretful that the Memorial Park ponds are being removed, but accepts the decision as he believes it would be most beneficial to the city.

“I’m a little sad because I remember [the ponds] being a cool place that me and my friends would meet, and I had some events there,” Vin said. “But at the same time, I understand [why it’s been drained] the past few years because of the drought.”

Construction is underway at Memorial park, with large parts of the park already being fenced off and excavated. (Lily Jiang)

To finalize the design for the construction that will begin after the removal of the ponds and changes to the amphitheater, Mosley and CIP Project Manager Ayano Hattori sent out surveys to receive community input. They implemented the changes residents wanted for the park in the Memorial Park Specific Plan

“I think the enthusiasm from the public we got so far has been great,” Hattori said. “Memorial Park really is a central park to Cupertino and there’s a lot of activities and events that get held there, so we want to make sure we retain those abilities and amenities. But we want to improve it so we can have more people enjoy it.”

Mosley says the eventual goal for the construction is to “reinvigorate the area” so that the community can once again use the space the empty Memorial Park ponds have occupied   for the last seven years.

“This is also the first step to future improvements to the park,” Mosley said. “As city employees, we’re not necessarily looking for any [community] response. We just want the residents to be happy to use the space and proud to have a beautiful park.”

Jollyman Park

Jollyman Park is undergoing an extensive renovation to build an all-inclusive playground for people of various ages and abilities. The play structure will include interactive features for people with sensory impairments and other disabilities.

In August of 2018, City Council conducted a feasibility study and deemed Jollyman Park to be the most optimal site for the park project. The City of Cupertino requested funding in October of 2018 and was awarded $1,448,201 by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors through the County AIPG grant program with a city match. After taking a pause during the pandemic, the project plan was initiated in winter of 2021 with construction scheduled to start in the summer of 2023. The playground is expected to open to the public in the summer of 2024.

Although the project is still in the design phase, project manager Evelyn Moran believes the new park will be “a place of community [that is] well received and frequented by many,” including people with mobility or cognitive disabilities as well as seniors and teens.

Similarly, junior Rachael Ding expects a positive response from the local community, especially since the play structure will be tailored to a wider audience.

“Before, the facilities weren’t very modern, so a large part of students and other people were excluded,” Ding said. “Afterwards, there [will] be a lot more people who can come visit the park.” 

In terms of design, Moran explains that the park will be laid with rubber flooring and lined with fencing to prevent tripping and accommodate wheelchairs. The project will implement quiet zones with benches and shade for those with cognitive or sensory conditions and areas with music for those with auditory impairments. The play area will also have areas filled with sand as another sensory support feature.

Moran believes Jollyman Park’s proximity to Cupertino residents makes the site especially accessible to the community.

“[Currently] in parts of Cupertino, there isn’t this type of play area and the closest one would be [in] Mountain View [or] San Jose,” Moran said. “For people [who] do have disabilities, it is sometimes difficult to travel to those areas, so making this accessible and closer to home will greatly impact the community.”

Moran hopes the construction of the playground will encourage people to develop a more inclusive perspective and learn to celebrate differences.

“[I expect] the community to be more aware of others [with different] abilities and disabilities, [and to be] aware of others [to make] it more inclusive for teens, children [and] seniors,” Moran said.