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City dusts off Adopt-a-Park program plans
• Council willing to give new Beautification Action Committee a trial run
The City Council hopes an Adopt-A-Park program will encourage volunteers in parks, like here when Central Valley Christian Academy student Winnie Wang swept leaves in Smyrna Park in January with her classmates.

Shelved for 11 years, an idea to implement an Adopt-a-Park program was revived Monday by members of the Ceres City Council.

The program would allow individuals, schools, scout, senior, youth, business and church groups to volunteer to pick up litter, rake leaves, pull weeds, remove graffiti, report park hazards, and sweep courts and pathways in the city’s 13 parks. The citywide volunteer program would recruit and train residents to assist in the general care and maintenance of neighborhood parks and other city parkland.

Councilwoman Linda Ryno brought up the idea back in December with the council’s intent to discuss the program at its Feb. 8 goal setting session. The council ran out of time so the matter was brought forth on Monday.

City Manager Toby Wells said the concept of an Adopt-A-Park (AAP) and/or Adopt-A-Road program was discussed at length in late 2006 as part of a Code Enforcement implementation plan. In 2007, the program was conceptualized and ready for implementation but was shelved when the economic downturn caused a reduction in the city workforce.

Wells said the council had discretion to craft the program as it wished. But after he presented the structure that was developed a decade ago, Vice Mayor Linda Ryno suggested the requirements seemed too restrictive.

“I think if you put too many restrictions on them then it kind of loses the desire to volunteer,” said Ryno.

She rejected the necessity of citizens wiping off graffiti, citing how the city is quickly eradicating graffiti with a worker. Ryno also likes the idea of putting up signs naming the volunteers or groups taking care of certain parks or areas.

“I think that instills pride in people, too, knowing that when people go to this park they can go, ‘Wow, look at how wonderful it looks and look who we can thank for doing that,” said Ryno.

She said the Adopt-a-Park concept came about when she and her husband, former Ceres Police Sgt. Sam Ryno, found the park named in his honor to be plagued with weeds and tall grass for lack of enough parks employees to do the work.

“I think there are a lot of people in Ceres who would jump on the opportunity to go out and clean up their neighborhood park,” said Ryno.

She suggested one orientation session for volunteers as to not consume a lot of staff time.

It is proposed that the program give volunteers:

• An official Certificate of Adoption;

• An Adopt-A-Park T-shirt (while supplies last);

• An invitation to an annual Recognition Event;

• An adoption plaque with the adopter’s name on it, which will be posted at the adopter’s site after 60 volunteer reported hours. This will reinforce a sense of responsibility and pride in the volunteers.

Wells said there would be a small cost, such as the cost of garbage bags and other materials.

Councilman Bret Durossette said schools would be a great place to look for volunteers since parks and schools are often near one another and because children have been singled out as the ones responsible for breaking sprinklers one city staffer told the council last month.

Wells said he will bring back a simpler process to be adopted but suggested one ingredient will be a waiver holding the city harmless should some injury occur.

Beautification Action Committee

A related agenda item on Monday resulted in council discussion about establishing a Beautification Action Committee. The idea was proposed by Councilman Channce Condit who wanted each council member appoint two persons to an ad hoc committee and serve two years. He suggested Code Enforcement officers attend meetings which are intended to tackle blight as well as ways to beautify Ceres. Condit said he thinks the group could be structured like the Measure H oversight committee which oversees expenditures of the half-cent sales tax for public safety.

“I think this committee would give the citizens an opportunity to regularly meet with Code Enforcement and could come up with a strategic plan to combat blight across the city,” said Condit.

Members didn’t like the idea of a 10-person committee, saying it could be fractured and lose direction.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Measure H Committee,” said Councilman Mike Kline. “I’ve never sat on one but I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Measure H … they’re discussing things different than what they’re supposed to be discussing.”

Condit said the committee could look into tackling loose shopping carts, illegal dumping, blight and participate in the Adopt-A-Park program.

Citizen Dave Pratt suggested that a committee effort might start out strong but will likely fade. He said his American Legion post effort to pick up trash along the freeway has dwindled over time.

Mayor Chris Vierra suggested each councilmember appoint one person at-large from the city to form the committee and give it until Dec. 31 to re-evaluate it. He said he did not have a lot of “heartburn” about allocating extra money to allow Code Enforcement to meet every other month with the committee.