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Resident: Park courts a nuisance
Basketball court users smoke pot, urinate, cuss, create noise
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Pot smoking, cussing, drug use, fights, public urinating, loud stereos, disrespectful attitudes and noise into the night prompted one resident on Buenaventura Drive last week to urge the City Council to remove the half basketball court installed last year at Sam Ryno Park.

Lawrence Yohana said that young men coming to use the park from the Crows Landing Road area of south Modesto are causing him a great deal of consternation.

The complaint ironically came just minutes before the Ceres City Council approved a parks master plan that will expand the use of parks throughout Ceres.

"We don't know what to do," said Yohana. "They're out there at like 10, 11 o'clock at night playing. I tell them hey I have to go to work the next morning. (They say) ‘Don't care, call the cops. It ain't our problem.'"
He said during a backyard barbecue, pot smoke was wafting over the fence.

"It's gone so far. We constantly call the cops."
He said Strawberry Parks located a few blocks away is also being misused. "That rim got torn down somehow two years ago. It's never been replaced. I'm sure it was torn down for a reason. It's the talk in our neighborhood now, too. How do we get rid of this basketball court?"

City Manager Toby Wells said the park lights are timed to go off at 10 p.m. and that the city had stepped up patrols through police and the contracted service of Ontel Security.

"It sounds like we need to revisit that issue," said Wells.

He expects to report back to the council after conferring with Police Chief Brent Smith.

Yohana said it seems like nonsense that lights stay on until 10 p.m. when the park rules state the park is closed an hour after sunset.

Wells said the lights are left on so people can see who is in the park at the same time.

He defended the court as a way the city has tried to get youth "outside and get away from the video games and everything else." Wells said the parks master plan will improve and increase recreational opportunities in Ceres parks.

"There's a balance here," said Wells. "It's where it's getting the folks who are abusing it - it's that minority that are taking away the good things for the rest of the community. It's one of the best parks we've built. The fact that the kids are playing basketball, that's a good thing that should be celebrated. But it's the bad apples that are ruining it for the rest of them and that's where we need them to help us police the issue as well."

Yohana and Wells had a short spar when Wells suggested there are good kids using the court. "We don't see those kids at all," said Yohana. Wells replied that he's been out there and watched officers play ball with kids to build a good rapport and opined that closing the court would be "the absolute backwards thing to do." Yohana said "I think you're absolutely wrong."

The council approved its parks master plan which supplies more ideas than the city has money to finish them.
The plan calls for Lions, Eastgate, Marie Neel and the Ceres River Bluff Regional parks should be completed before the city looks to build additional parks. The plan seeks to build a dog park at Neel Park off of Boothe Road.

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, said Wells. But the city will 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.

Ideas for Eastgate Park include bocce ball and horseshoe courts, basketball court, a climbing wall, picnic facilities and community garden.