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Soccer use at park stirs controversy

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POSTED March 23, 2014 10:01 p.m.

LATHROP – A group of die-hard soccer players asked the City of Lathrop for more leeway so they could further expand their blossoming operation.

In turn they got a policy that might severely restrict where and when they can practice and how much space they’ll have allotted out of city parks. It is a measured response stemming from citizen complaints about beer bottles and dirty diapers that end up in their gutters every weekend.

The council didn’t act on the matter when they met last week, opting instead to revisit it at a Town Hall-style meeting sometime next month as a way to better explain the issue to those that have questions.

But the attitudes shown by a number of council members towards the issue painted a clear picture – they feel the pain of the residents. And they want to do anything that they can to protect them from what one neighbor says is much more than just a minor inconvenience.

Making sure the issue before the council was agreed-upon by as many parties as possibly is also an issue. Many residents said they were never notified and that they knew plenty of people who would have wanted their voices heard before a vote is cast.

“With all due respect to staff and to the parks and recreation commission, it seems like we haven’t involved all of the stakeholders in coming up with a policy that best reflects the views of the people who are rents, the views of the people who live in the neighborhood and the views of the commission and the council,” said vice mayor Omar Ornelas.”So I think the best thing we can do is to go back and reevaluate this policy that we’re bringing forward so that it’s not only a reflection of the people involved, but something that this council can approve and something that this council can be comfortable approving.”

The policy would essentially map out reservation policies, clearly define maintenance schedules and fee structures and lay out the rules and regulations of what it takes to reserve a park within the City of Lathrop. Because of its open space Sangalang Park is popular nearly year-round. It gets plenty of use in the baseball off-season by adult soccer leagues that like being able to run three games at the same time.

Craig Weiss said that he just wants to see something formally drawn up that will alleviate his concerns as a neighbor. He said he’s tired of throwing away glass bottles and dirty diapers and seeing the grass surface thrashed during the wet months.

Other residents, like Javier Perez of the San Joaquin Soccer League, said that they do their part not only as paying residents but as concerned residents that go so far as to spend days shoveling sand and seed and smoothing out the lines in the grass that form over time.

After spending his day off shoveling sand, the last thing that Perez wants to hear from anybody is that he doesn’t do his part and is somehow draining a system that he helped build.

“I live in Lathrop and (people) look at me (as if) I like come here and do trouble,” he said. “I don’t want that.”

The date and time of the future Town Hall meeting has not been announced.

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