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Port to celebrate its latest waterfront jewel, Ruocco Park

Ruocco Park, located north of Seaport Village, will be the Port of San Diego's 18th dedicated public park.

The Port of San Diego is getting ready to celebrate the dedication of its 18th waterfront park, Ruocco Park. Located on the waterfront of downtown San Diego, the park will be 3.3 acres and be located just north of Seaport Village.

A portion of the buildings that formerly housed the Harbor Seafood Mart and the Coral Reef Restaurant were demolished to make way for the park, which features quiet contemplative areas, a variety of trees and artwork by local artist Roman de Salvo.

The park is named after Lloyd and Ilse Ruocco. Lloyd was a noted San Diego architect and considered the father of the modern architectural movement here. His credits include the San Diego Civic Theater, the San Diego County Administration Center, the San Diego Design Center and many private residences. His wife, Ilse, was a distinguished interior designer and a professor of art at San Diego State University. Together, they established a trust fund to provide money for building and maintaining a park in the central area of San Diego. The fund is managed by the San Diego Foundation, which awarded the Port of San Diego a $3.5 million grant in November 2008.

The Ruocco Fund is one of a family of funds at The San Diego Foundation. The port entered into a donation agreement with it that will provide $2.5 million for design and enhancements to the park. The remaining balance will be put into a separate fund for the park’s long-term maintenance. According to the agreement, which is for a 66-year term, the park will be named Ruocco Park.

The park’s lead designer and landscape architect is Dennis Otsuji of ONA, Inc., a San Diego firm that provides services in landscape architecture, urban design and land planning. The Stephen Birch Aquarium and NTC/Liberty Station are two examples of the firm’s prestigious projects. Ledcor Construction, Inc. is the park’s developer.

The Port of San Diego is contributing $3.8 million for the park. Funding was allocated in the Port’s Capital Improvement Program for a basic park. The San Diego Foundation grant was used for the park’s design and upgrades, such as the garden areas, upgraded hardscape, benches, public art and lighting.

Roman de Salvo completed the public artwork, titled “The Riparium,” in August. The large-scale artwork serves as a sculptural gateway to the park, gesturing ornately to park’s grassy area and the glistening San Diego Bay.

As park goers pass through the sculpture, they will see an overhead abstract network of massive eucalyptus tree branches. The artist milled the branches with a chainsaw and spliced them together to form a sculptural puzzle. Each section was planed, sanded, and treated and will be installed with the planed surface facing downward. This will allow the warm grain of the wood to be revealed and will allow the exposed side to weather naturally. The artwork is suspended by cables that are anchored to three towering masts, evocative of sailboats on the bay.

De Salvo is a nationally-recognized artist, who lives and works in San Diego. In 2006, he completed the 125-foot-long “Nexus Eucalyptus” at the Caltrans District 11 building in Old Town. The artwork is constructed from eucalyptus trees installed in a manner that resembles a network of roadways. He has also created public artwork for the San Diego Trolley’s Green Line Station, Alvarado Medical Center and the New Children’s Museum in San Diego. He has exhibited his work at the Seattle Art Museum, Quint Contemporary Art in La Jolla, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, the Public Art Fund in New York, the Nevada Museum of Art, the Whitney Biennial in New York City and the Musee d’Art Americain in Giverny, France. De Salvo received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, San Diego.

“The Riparium” will be dedicated at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Ruocco Park scheduled for Sept. 20, 2012, at 10 a.m. Mayor Jerry Sanders, along with San Diego Council President Pro Tem Kevin Faulconer, are scheduled to speak at the event, along with San Diego Foundation President/CEO Bob Kelly and Lou Smith, Chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners.

Ruocco Park will be the Port’s 18th public park. As a provider of recreational opportunities for the region, the Port of San Diego has developed 150 acres of public parkland along the waterfront of San Diego Bay and the shoreline of Imperial Beach.

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