Stressing that being outdoors and enjoying parks can do much to make the heart glad, especially given the year-long restrictions related to COVID-19, Brandy Meyer appealed to the Ceres City Council to restore its contribution to the Tuolumne River Regional Park (TRRP).
The city of Ceres ended its financial contribution to the park in 2017.
“The city of Ceres made a commitment in 1972 to not only Stanislaus County and Modesto but to the citizens of Ceres that we would take part in the development of a regional park,” said Meyer. “The city of Ceres has backed out on the agreement.
“The benefit of a regional park – or any park for that matter during this time of the pandemic – is well worth any of the cost.”
The city of Ceres is a member of the park’s Joint Powers Authority (JPA) which governs the park with the city of Modesto and Stanislaus County. Meyer said Ceres residents can use the 500-acre park, which runs in fragmented stretches along the Tuolumne River between Modesto and Ceres, mostly on the north side. However the TRRP does encompass Mancini Memorial Park at 1204 River Road, which is outside of Ceres city limits but close enough to walk to.
“Once a pedestrian bridge is developed, the citizens of Ceres will be able to literally walk over to the Gateway Parcel and enjoy the biking and walking trails of the park,” said Meyer.
Meyer shared a slide show presentation on progress in the park, including the restoration of the Gateway piece located between the Highway 99 and South Seventh Street bridges. The park’s offers recreational uses, including hiking and biking trails, boat ramps and pedestrian bridges.
Each member agency has financially chipped in for the park development and maintenance based on a 1996 formula.
“Being a part of a regional park along such a beautiful river is so unique that we should be blessed to be a part of it,” Meyers told the council. “The city of Ceres should not step in and step out … to have such a minimal amount of money that we pay out of our budget.”
She said Ceres pays “such a small amount compared to the other two jurisdictions and we still get to reap the benefits of a regional park.”
Without having the exact figures, Meyers said Modesto pays over $100,000 annually to the TRRP JPA while Ceres’ last payment was about $18,000.
“Our past mayors and our city council saw the benefit in being a part of a regional park, so much so that we have a history dating back to 1972.”
Councilwoman Linda Ryno said while she appreciated Meyer’s “real heart” for the TRRP, noted that the prior council decided to forego shelling out the $17,000 per year not just because of financial reasons.
“Every time we went to their meetings everything was about what benefitted the city of Modesto and the county side – nothing was ever done for the other side, what would be the east side of Mitchell Road,” said Ryno. “We weren’t seeing anything for our money.”
Meyer said she appreciated Ryno’s account for the cancellation and pledged to “definitely look into that and find out what more we can do for the city of Ceres.”
Ryno added that Ceres received no help from the two other jurisdictions when Ceres applied for grants to develop the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. She also said that the 9-2-99 cleanup effort has never included anything east of the Mitchell Road Bridge.
“It just doesn’t seem like we’ve gotten any benefit from being part of that,” said Ryno. “I get that it benefits the citizens. The park is there anyway and we’re spending this money to basically fund their park when maybe we could be putting it into our own parks.”
Meyer answered: “Well, I don’t see it as ‘their’ park. I see it as our park.”
She also added that she wants to open dialogue as to how to incorporate the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park into TRRP “because I think that would be an opportunity for more grants for the city of Ceres.”
Meyer is a member of TRRP’s Citizens Advisory Committee along with Modesto representatives Jim Bishop, Chris Guptill and county representatives Luis Jimenez, Darleen Patrick, Carole Stark and Ronald West. Ceres is missing a member, the slot last filled by Leonard Shepherd.