Construction work designed to improve the way people access and view Atascadero Lake Park from Highway 41 at the city’s west entrance is under way.
The roughly $288,000 project, funded through park impact fees that developers pay the city, stretches along Morro Road from Portola Avenue to the Charles Paddock Zoo entrance.
Landscaping and a pedestrian path along Highway 41 are part of the project.
Added signage is also key, including an 8-foot-tall concrete monument sign with a wooden roof along the highway to mark the entrance of Lake Park and Charles Paddock Zoo. There will also be a new light-up banner holder along the roadway for city, service clubs and other groups to advertise upcoming events.
The concrete sign, to have recessed lettering painted in forest green, was originally slated to say from top to bottom: “Atascadero Lake Park,” “Charles Paddock Zoo” and “Veterans Memorial” with the first words in each title in smaller print than the rest.
But the sign builder worried that the smaller lettering was too delicate to remain visible in the face of long-term wear. The City Council tinkered with the wording at its meeting Tuesday to save space. City staff first suggested replacing the memorial name with that of the Pavilion, the city’s event hall at the park.
The Veterans Memorial name could go, they said, because the memorial’s nonprofit foundation recently debuted plans for a new $50,000 granite and bronze sign to be constructed at the park. The group is still seeking donations for its “Faces of Freedom” sign, but plans to install it at the park are under way.
But adding the Pavilion while increasing the size of the lettering would have meant removing “Charles Paddock” from the zoo’s title on the sign, a move Councilman Jerry Clay adamantly resisted.
“Charles Paddock’s name has to be on there,” Clay said. “Take Pavilion off and put his name on there. The zoo wouldn’t be there without him.”
Paddock, a county park ranger, started the zoo in 1956 as a quirky collection of critters beginning with an opossum and then later a monkey and a black bear.
The council unanimously agreed to delete “Pavilion” from the sign in order to retain Paddock’s full name. With the larger lettering throughout, the sign will now read: “Atascadero Lake Park” and “Charles Paddock Zoo.”
The city awarded the two-month construction project to Atascadero-based Raminha Construction Co. The company says the project will create eight or nine full-time jobs. Some days the construction will require additional workers, staff said.
The work, expected to wrap up June 1, is consistent with the City Council’s goals of promoting community events and encouraging tourism, according to the city.