Bobby Burns Park?

If the city actually builds the first new Midtown park in years, locals want it named after the Sacramento icon

A photo of the late Bobby Burns from the petition circulating Midtown.

A photo of the late Bobby Burns from the petition circulating Midtown.

Plans to build a new park at 19th and Q streets in the central city, Sacramento’s first urban park in years, recently sparked a grassroots movement to name it after a popular Midtown figure of yore. Fliers posted in local businesses such as Pieces Pizza by the Slice on 21st Street make a case for christening the new development Bobby Burns Park, after the Midtown drummer and friend to many, who died in September 2000 from liver complications.

“Bobby was my best friend,” said Eric Foemmel, owner of local publishing outfit Uptown Research and supporter of the Bobby Burns Park movement. “It’s amazing to me, 10 years after his death, to see how much of an impact he’s had on our town.”

The site of the future park will be an empty field opposite the former Whiskey Wild Saloon on Q Street. But first, contaminated soil must be removed, and preliminary park master plans need to be approved by city council.

And there’s also the small matter of funding construction, including park proposals such as a human-sized chessboard and other structures.

Department of Parks and Recreation planning and development manager J.P. Tindell explained that five parcels, including the 19th and Q streets site, were acquired in 2008 and 2009. The land was purchased using grants from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

In September 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Cleanup Grant provided the city with an additional $200,000 to remediate the park site. But these funds require not only a $40,000 match from the city, but the entire $240,000 also only goes toward removing toxic soil and other cleanup. The city must then come up with additional funds to build the park itself.

The grant also requires that soil remediation be completed by December 2012; the city is currently drafting a cleanup action plan. The hope is to begin next summer, according to Mary de Beauvieres, principal planner with Department of Parks and Recreation.

She explains that a master development plan will go this fall to the Parks and Recreation Commission, who then will make a recommendation to city council, who then will vote on how the park should be developed.

But Tin-Wah Wong, project manager for Sacramento Parks and Recreation, says the city still has no construction budget, so a completion date for this new urban park remains to be seen.

Burns’ friend hopes that this will provide ample time for the Bobby Burns Park movement to gain momentum. “[Now] it just seems to be a part of the downtown conversation,” Foemmel said. “I don’t know if there’s a face to the movement. It’s kind of a collective agreement that it should be called Bobby Burns Park.”

The city Parks and Recreation Commission will hear the master plan this August. Bobby Burns Park advocates urge that supporters contact project manager Wong and Councilman Steve Cohn to voice their support for Bobby Burns.

“He always brought the life to the party,” Foemmel remembers of his friend, “and, no matter how intoxicated he was, he could play the drums beautifully. He could make a drum talk.”