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Park ideas to be examined
The city is applying for federal grant funds to install a number of improvements at Neel Park at Boothe and Helen Perry roads. - photo by Courtesy of the city of Ceres

The proposed parks master plan will get another review by the Ceres City Council on March 14 after members suggested new ideas for parks on Monday.

The city has more ideas than it has money to finish two undeveloped parks and add more amenities to its existing parks.

Earlier this month the Ceres Planning Commission determined Lions, Eastgate, Marie Neel and the Ceres River Bluff Regional parks should be completed before the city looks to build additional parks. Commissioners liked the idea of adding a dog park to Neel Park off of Boothe Road but some on the council like the idea of more dog parks.

More ideas for parks sprung forth on Monday. Bret Durossette said he wanted to see benches added to Neel Park. Linda Ryno wants to see some of the parks get adult exercise stations. Mike Kline wanted to see a walking path added to the south side of Don Pedro Park as well as consider security lighting in parks.

Ryno suggested that while Neel Park was a great place for a dog park, she wanted to see another one in Ceres as well. She rejected the idea that the city-owned right-of-way basin located just south of Whitmore Avenue between Railroad Avenue and Highway 99 would make a good place for a dog park.

"Neel Park is a wonderful location, and especially that little triangular kind of piece but I can't ever see ... that you would want to put a dog park on Railroad Avenue," said Ryno.

City Manager Toby Wells said the parks master plan would be flexible enough that the council could change what it wants to see in the parks.

The city currently does not have funding for a dog park, he said. But later in the meeting the council sent city staff to seek grant funds for developing Neel Park. The National Park Service has $6.5 million available in the Land and Water Conservation Fund with which the city hopes to pay for a children's play area, a half basketball court, a dog park and a picnic shelter with barbecue pits.

The 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."

Planning Commissioner Laurie Smith suggested that she wanted city staff explore the possibility of using some smaller drainage basins scattered throughout residential neighborhoods as park space. Wells said the idea poses financial and logistical challenges for smaller basins.