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Council settles on design for expanded park
A new design for an expanded Ceres River Bluff Regional Park was approved last week by the Ceres City Council that ultimately provides more soccer fields, a tot lot, more parking and other amenities.

Six soccer fields were originally included in the early design of Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. Only five were developed because of the need for a large storm drainage basin. Because six weren't built, Ceres has not been able to host larger state cup tournaments. The city is now planning for more soccer fields, possibly ready by the fall of 2013.

The Ceres City Council held a Study Session on Tuesday, Nov. 14 to look over the newest design concept which adds more fields and augments the 245-stall parking lot that already exists at the Hatch Road park. The design was preferred by the council because it places a future two-million-gallon water tank in the middle of the east side of the park, away from the back and away from the front as two designs originally proposed last month.

City Engineer Toby Wells said the tank is not needed for at least five or six years when the regional surface water project goes on line. There is still the option of placing the tank far from the park east on Hatch Road.

The city will advise Dirk Wyatt, the property owner to the east, about their choice where to place to tank, which could possibly sit 25 feet above grade. Wyatt is considering a residential development on his land, which has been walled off from the park.

The park project calls for the addition of two new championship soccer fields, two Under 8 youth soccer fields, a "TOP" soccer field for handicapped play, park amenities in the existing playground, a traffic turn around for drop-off traffic, and a new parking lot for 226 vehicles at the southeast quadrant of the park. The design allows the city to use an area along Hatch Road west of the current entrance for either a commercial businesses or overflow parking in times of high use.

The new design also calls for a roundabout near the entrance to help vehicles flow in and out of the new and existing parking lot. At some time in the future the city wants to add a second ingress/egress for the park at Boothe Road.

Lou Toste, former president of Ceres Youth Soccer, said he is concerned about the location of the children's play area and picnic area being a distraction to those playing soccer on the nearby fields.

With six fields, Ceres can compete with Ripon and Turlock for state cup tournaments.

Toste said his organization just opened a new five-week league for TOP - stands for The Outreach Program - that has attracted two disabled players. He anticipates it growing in size, and said Tracy has 60 participants.

"There is a tremendous movement in soccer in Ceres," he said.

Recreation Coordinator Cambria Pollinger said the city routinely receives a lot of complaints about the limited parking at the park, which she noted has become a year-round facility.

The Ceres park is broken into two geographically different sections. The upper terrace, which is level to Hatch Road, is the recreational portion of the park. The lower terrace near the Tuolumne River, is being restored to its natural river habitat from its former use as a walnut orchard.

The city must next amend its park master plan, requiring public input, before construction may take place.

said Mayor Chris Vierra.