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River Bluff Park improvements underway
$2.3 million project nears soccer time
Ron Farrell rock work
Ron Farrell of McPhee Masonry of Oakdale applies actual river rock to the wall of a new roundabout near the entrance of the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park on Hatch Road. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Soccer season is coming up this fall and construction work is occurring at a rapid rate in order to make Ceres River Bluff Regional Park ready this month for expanded play opportunities.

The city is expanding Ceres River Bluff Regional Park to provide more soccer fields, a tot lot, additional parking and other amenities.

Six soccer fields were originally included in the early design of Ceres River Bluff Regional Park but only five were developed because of the need for a large storm drainage basin. Because the six weren't built, Ceres has been unable to host larger state cup tournaments.

That will change with the addition of two new championship soccer fields, two Under 8 youth soccer fields, a "TOP" soccer field for handicapped play, park amenities in the existing playground, a traffic turn around for drop-off traffic, and a new parking lot for 226 vehicles at the southeast quadrant of the park to be added to the 245 existing stalls. The design sets aside an area along Hatch Road west of the current entrance for either future commercial businesses or overflow parking in times of high use.

In February the Ceres City Council awarded a $2.3 million contract to Ross F. Carroll Inc. of Oakdale to expand the park. The work involves removing one soccer field and adding two championship fields and three youth fields, doubling the size of the existing parking lot, adding a roundabout entrance, fencing off the existing well site, building an arbor structure worth $132,750, landscaping and other improvements.

The new design also calls for a roundabout near the entrance to help vehicles flow in and out of the new and existing parking lot. At some time in the future the city wants to add a second ingress/egress for the park at Boothe Road.

With six fields, Ceres can compete with Ripon and Turlock for state cup tournaments.

Toste said his organization has a five-week league for TOP - stands for The Outreach Program - that has attracted two disabled players. He anticipates it growing in size.

Recreation Coordinator Cambria Pollinger said the city routinely receives a lot of complaints about the limited parking at the park, which she noted has become a year-round facility.

The Ceres park is broken into two geographically different sections. The upper terrace, which is level to Hatch Road, is the recreational portion of the park. The lower terrace near the Tuolumne River, is being restored to its natural river habitat from its former use as a walnut orchard.