What can you do with an abandoned landfill? How would you create a sense of “arrival” at key entrances to Balboa Park? How might you connect Balboa Park’s cultural district to the West Mesa, an historic passive recreation area? Those were some of the questions posed for discussion when close to 100 Balboa Park stakeholders and members of the community came together on July 12 for a Community Conversation, hosted by the Balboa Park Conservancy and facilitated by Project for Public Spaces with the support of Heart of the Community grant from Southwest Airlines.

The Community Conversation maintained the momentum from the Conservancy’s work with Project for Public Spaces and brought up select ideas from four distinct areas in the park: Golden Hill, the West Mesa, the Landfill, and the Palisades. Participants broke into groups and focused on opportunities to leverage Balboa Park’s unique assets while serving distinct audiences (residents, youth, out-of-town visitors). As expected, participants were fully engaged and brought both creative ideas and concerns to the table.

Among the proposals were creating a more visible, grander entrance to the park at Sefton Plaza; hosting a farmers market in the Palisades; and partnering with the park museums to create public art installations in strategic park locations.

In addition to the public meeting, the Conservancy provided all invitees with a link to “Maptionnaire,” a tool used to gather community-driven data and feedback on a specific location. More than 200 participants completed the survey about how they use the park.

The Balboa Park Conservancy’s mission is to envision, enhance, and sustain Balboa Park for all visitors, in partnership with the City of San Diego and in collaboration with other organizations in the park and the community. The Conservancy is part of a cohort of professional international placemaking organizations. In partnership with the city, we maintain the Plaza de Panama “Living Room” and put on parkwide events, like Food Truck Fridays, Halloween Family Day, and the Cinco de Mayo Celebration.

This Heart of the Community project, in partnership with Project for Public Spaces, is supported by a grant from Southwest Airlines.