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San Juan Capistrano will build long-discussed tribal park by late fall

After years of delay, a park simulating an Acjachemen tribal village in San Juan Capistrano is expected to be built by late fall.

In recent days, the City Council awarded a $1.2 million construction contract for the project, which involves a 1.5-acre park on an undeveloped city property along the 5 Freeway known as the Northwest Open Space.

The city has set aside money from the proceeds of existing bonds to build the park. But the council put the project on hold in May amidst the coronavirus pandemic, with officials saying they weren’t sure if the city could pay for maintaining the park, which would cost the city $50,000 to $70,000 a year.

But City Manager Ben Siegel said in the council’s July 21 meeting that he believes the city will have the money to maintain the park, using the lease income from the city-owned Swanner House and Christmas Tree Farm nearby, and so the council decided to proceed.

The city has budgeted $2.8 million for the entire project. After awarding the contract, the city will have about $500,000 left over that will be transferred to pay for landscaping at the Ortega Highway/Del Obispo Street intersection, Public Works Director Tom Toman said.

The tribal village will include various depictions of Acjachemen culture, with artifacts and exhibits in authentic huts. There will also be an amphitheater area as well as a discovery trail.

For years, Acjachemen members have pushed for the park, which will be built where once the village of Putuidem stood before the Spanish arrived and drove out the tribe.

The project had been delayed multiple times even before May: in 2017, the council paused the project because it couldn’t identify how to pay for maintaining the park; in 2019, the council put the project on hold to clarify whether the park is allowed under the city’s zoning code.

Source: Orange County Register

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