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New parks grace opposite ends of city of Ceres
The families of Marie Neel turned out for the first new park dedication in Ceres in more than 12 years on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Later in the day Sam Ryno turned out for the opening of a westside park in his name.

Marie Neel Park, formerly the Boothe Road Park, and the Sam Ryno (formerly Brown Estates) Park are completed and open for public use.

Doug Lemcke, director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities, said the parks are still being developed in phases. The city spent $778,000 with Grover Landscaping for the first phase development of Neel and Ryno parks, including installing the irrigation system, and seeding of grass, planting of trees and pouring of perimeter sidewalks and placement of security lighting.

Because funding was not available to develop the full parks all at once, Lemcke estimated that the second phase with all the playground equipment and picnic tables and tennis courts for Neal Park will be another year in coming.

Ryno and his wife, Lynda, appeared at the dedication ceremony at Brown Avenue and Stone Springs Drive in the westside. Ryno is the officer who was seriously wounded in the Jan. 9, 2005 shooting in front of George's Liquors which took the life of Sgt. Howard Stevenson. Ryno, 51, a 24-year veteran of the Ceres Police Department, was made a sergeant after the shooting but never returned to work.

"Sam was really impressed with the quality of the park and that it was named after him," said Lemcke.

About 40 persons turned out at the Marie Neel Park site, which sat vacant and barren for decades on Boothe Road just west of Sam Vaughn Elementary School. Among those who spoke were Caryl Fowler and Jean Mildred Krause, who both lobbied for the naming of the park.

Marie Neel, the park's namesake, lived on the site for nearly half a century and supported children, animal rights and churches in Ceres. Her former neighbor, Jean Mildred Krause, suggested the name would be fitting for the seven-acre Boothe Road park site and passed a petition in support of her name being used. The petition was signed by over 200 area neighbors.

Neel died in 1999.

The city is also making plans to develop the 10-acre Ceres Lions Club Park - which had been tentatively named River Ranch Park - at a later date on River Road.

The Ceres Lions Club has agreed to share in the development of the park, including outdoor basketball courts and barbecue pits.

"This club has very supportive of the community for 59 years," said Lemcke. "They've done a lot of work locally with our parks."