The city will soon seek bids to begin construction of the first phase of two new parks – the Lions Park on River Road; and Eastgate Park located between Fiddleleaf Lane and Eastgate Boulevard north of Kiwi Drive.
The city has owned about 7.5 acres of the undeveloped 10-acre Eastgate Park site and the 10-acre Lions Park site on River Road between Central and Richland avenues but had little money to develop them. Construction is expected to start this summer. The balance of the work will be completed over time as funding becomes available.
At its Jan. 13 meeting, the City Council reviewed the first phase elements for both parks which will include grading, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, tree planting and children’s play areas. Eastgate will also be equipped with an adult exercise area and shade structure.
The city has been cautious about adding new parks because maintenance staffing levels are still short.
“We’ve tried to phase the park improvements such that we don’t … overwhelm our parks department staff,” City Manager Toby Wells explained to the council. He noted that the city has fewer parks workers today than in 1985 with several hundred acres or more parkland.
Wells added that the city has been adding longer maintenance periods into park construction contracts while landscaping gets established.
The city is budgeting about $800,000 for each park, funded out of Public Facilities Fees paid by developers.
Vice Mayor Linda Ryno suggested the parks need to be built with minimal landscaping, citing how she felt Marie Neel Park was built with too many plants for maintenance workers to handle.
“I would okay with doing the minimal, making sure you get all your trees in so they can mature but I can’t see putting landscaping in when we already have an issue of maintaining what we have,” said Ryno.
She recommended bark cover in lieu of “weeds that are taller than the plants in massive quantities in landscaped areas – and it happens in our parks.”
Strawberry Fields Park is also scheduled for some attention, including a new children’s playground area.
The council put the brakes on a 2016 parks master plan idea to eliminate the bathroom at Strawberry Fields Park on Ceres’ west side.
“On the basis of lots of complaints and issues with the maintenance of that restroom the concept was created to eliminate that restroom,” said Wells.
He said Strawberry Fields is classified as a neighborhood park and very few in that category have restrooms. One of them is Roeding Heights Park which has tennis courts.
“The theory goes that it’s in the neighborhood; we don’t want to invite the whole community and that park is near the neighborhood and you’re not having that attractive nuisance that restrooms have become,” said Wells.
Ryno pulled back on the reins, saying the restrooms are handy for older people and families with small children who use the park.
“When you have a two- or three-year-old child and they need to go to the bathroom you can’t normally get them home quick enough,” said Ryno. She acknowledged that vandalism is a problem with the building but said vandalism occurs at all parks.
Councilman Channce Condit agreed with Ryno but Mayor Chris Vierra did not, saying the bathroom is prone to vandalism, drug transactions and use of homeless. He didn’t feel strongly about leaving it in place either.
Vierra suggested a neighborhood forum to see how they feel about removing the restroom.
The Strawberry Fields Park improvements will be funded by the Westpointe assessment district which includes treatment of the medians in the area which have become barren or weed-choked.