Garden Grove

Pursuing a goal of better parks, services

JOHN MONTANCHEZ is the new community services director for the City of Garden Grove. Note hockey and other sports items over his right shoulder (Orange County Tribune photo).

By Jim Tortolano

John Montanchez has goals. In more than one way.

The new community services director for the City of Garden Grove not only has a lot of plans for the department which oversees recreation and parks and other functions, but he’s an avid ice hockey follower and weekend puck chaser.

“I’m a big-time hockey fan and player, “ says Montanchez, 42, a resident of Lake Forest. Originally a resident of the South Bay area, “When Wayne Getzky came over [to the Los Angeles Kings] in 1988, I fell in love with the sport.” He even plays on a team called Piso Mojado (“Wet Floor” in Spanish) at The Rinks in Westminster.

While Montanchez has no plans to bring an ice hockey arena to The Big Strawberry, he does have a set of initiatives he wants to emphasize.

“I’m excited,” he said about his recent appointment after 15 years in the department. “I’ve always enjoyed working in this community. I live in Lake Forest but I feel like I live in Garden Grove. I know more about this community than I do about my [actual] community.” He enjoys the diversity of Garden Grove and the challenge of putting together programs for the different cultures.

“For example, the Asian community, especially the older community, they really enjoy exercise. We’ve managed to do some really fun things in bringing in outdoor exercise equipment, that’s one of the projects I really enjoyed doing, because I saw that as soon as we put the first one in there people were there all the time.”

MONTANCHEZ in one of the big chairs in the Civic Center Park in Garden Grove (OC Tribune photo).

Other emerging trends in recreation related fields includes programs for the baby boom generation (born from 1946 to 1964) as they retire. “They don’t necessarily want to go to our typical senior citizen center. They want to have active programming, to still be active.” Montanchez thinks that offering more volunteering opportunities might be the right approach.

He also wants to develop greater collaboration and cooperation among the various non-profit and service organizations in the city, to build a network among them.

But, alas, it’s unlikely that Garden Grove will be getting more parkland. ‘We’re definitely underparked,” he said. But as to adding to the 17 parks now in place, “I’d have to say no,” citing the built-out condition of the community.

But one way to offer more open space is to work with the Garden Grove Unified School District – which serves most of the city – to increase joint use and offer recreation programs on school campuses as was done in an earlier era.

In an effort to make the best use of the parkland and other facilities – including the Festival Amphitheater and Gem Theater on Main Street – the city is preparing a RFP (request for proposals) for the creation of a master plan for parks.

“We’re not in a position to build more parks, but for the parks we do have now we need to determine how we can provide the amenities the community wants,” he said.

 

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