Because the City Council chose not to accede to the strong push to rename the Eastgate Park to honor veterans, Mayor Javier Lopez moved forward Monday to form an ad hoc committee to find other ways to honor local residents who served or are serving in the armed forces.
Lopez handpicked several persons to serve on the new committee. They include his self, Staff Sgt. King of the Turlock U.S. Army recruiting office, Freddy Morales of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion Commander Pete Samaniego, resident and veteran Gene Yeakley, Supervisor Channce Condit and Councilman Bret Silveira.
Samaniego told the council that Ceres could replicate the way Turlock honors its veterans with banners along Countryside Drive but display photos on banner along the Hatch Road corridor.
“I think there’s more recognition that needs to be given to these veterans who have given their lives to make what we have today, our freedom and our honor,” said Samaniego.
Ceres resident John Osgood decried the effort, saying the city’s job is “not to have a committee for every issue that we think is important. It’s not our job to honor each other on a continual basis.”
Earlier in the meeting Osgood accused the city of corruption and violating the law by participating in fire department resource sharing.
King countered that it is important to highlight veterans.
“For me it’s about being a strong community together, living a stronger bond between the United States Army and the military in general and your communities,” said Sgt. King.
Silveira said it became clear through the input of the community during the park naming suggestion period that many want to honor veterans in Ceres.
“It’s a no-brainer to reach out and recognize those people who protect our freedom,” said Silveira, who said he’d be happy to sit on the committee.
Yeakley addressed Osgood’s remark: “Let me tell you, if you’ve ever been in a war zone, they’re a pretty nasty place and you see things that you never want to experience as an 18-year-old kid.” He said the community should display recognition for veterans “whatever the cost.”
The council will bring back the matter for a formal resolution.
The Ceres City Council met March 22 and voted 3-1 to rename Eastgate Park to Guillermo Ochoa Park. Councilwoman Linda Ryno wanted to keep the name Eastgate Park.
“It’s been 14 or 15 years that the site has been out there, the people that live there call it Eastgate Park – I think everyone calls it Eastgate Park – and for that reason, as much as I think that Guillermo was a nice person, I would have to say I’d like to see it continue as Eastgate Park,” said Ryno, who cast the only lone no vote.
After a month-long park naming contest, the city received 181 applications, of which 54 supported Ochoa’s name, 48 calling for the name of Veterans Park and 35 for Howard Stevenson Park after the slain officer.