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City may snag state grant for dog park, amenities at Neel Park
$100,000 could help finish park site
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A $100,000 grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation is expected to be approved to help the city of Ceres build a dog park and other amenities at the Marie Neel Park in east Ceres.

The city is among 17 local park projects to receive grant funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund Program. The funding is made available only if the National Park Services signed onto it.

"Projects like these enhance outdoor opportunities and bring families and communities together, so we are hopeful that they will be approved," said California State Parks Director Lisa Mangat.

The Ceres project is the smallest of the projects totaling $8.8 million.

Ceres currently does not have a dog park but the grant would allow it to develop. The grant would also help pay for a children's play area, a half basketball court and a picnic shelter with barbecue pits. The city plans to build the dog park on the triangle piece of empty park space north of Helen Perry Road and east of Boothe Road. The children's play equipment, barbecue area and half basketball court would be situated south of Helen Perry Road immediately west of the Sam Vaughn Elementary School parking lot.

In March the City Council approved a parks master plan also calls for:

• Completion of the pedestrian and bike trail to link the parks together;

• Encouragement of a "Friends of Ceres Parks" to help support Ceres' parks.

The city has not developed much of Neel Park and done nothing to develop Eastgate and Lions parks. The city owns about 7.5 acres of the undeveloped 10-acre Eastgate Park site located east of Eastgate Boulevard and south of Hatch Road. For about a decade the city has owned the 10-acre Lions Park site on River Road between Central and Richland avenues but done nothing to develop it.

Chad Kennedy, the consultant with O'Dell Engineering who assisted the city with the parks master plan, recommends that the city add more features to its existing parks.

Ideas for Eastgate Park include bocce ball and horseshoe courts, basketball court, a climbing wall, picnic facilities and community garden.

Kennedy acknowledged that funding will be an issue and recommended that the city look into special financing districts, bonds/park districts, program fees, establishing business partnerships as well as setting up a Friends of the Park group.

City Engineer Daryl Jordan said the city has about $2 million in developer fees for park development but cautioned the city needs to "spread that out as best we can and leverage that with what funding we get."