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Woodward Park: One dollar goes a long, long way

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POSTED August 9, 2012 11:59 p.m.

It was 52 acres of old almonds.

And it was located in an area where at least one municipal planner was quoted as saying it would never be developed. He claimed it was poor planning and too expensive for the private sector to extend services as they’d have to go south of what he perceived was the Great Wall of Manteca - the Highway 120 Bypass.

A handful of men - Al Boyce and Mike Atherton among them - who did not put their faith in bureaucratic utterances had a wonderful thing that seems lacking all too much today, vision. They had bought several hundred acres including the 52 acres of old almonds with the intent of building a new era in Manteca.

There was another man with vision as well who was sitting on the Manteca City Council at the time. His name was Jack Snyder.

Snyder was - and is - what one might call a bit strong-willed.

Snyder believed Manteca had not done enough for its youth in terms of making recreational opportunities available to help them keep on the right path. He also had built a reputation of setting his sights on a goal and pursuing it with dogged determination. His role in the battle for the 120 Bypass that shrewdly plugged into the power of the Bay Area in Sacramento by targeting leaflet campaigns at those from west of the Altamont Pass caught in legendary weekend traffic jams in Manteca going to and from the Sierra was borderline genius. Snyder and others backed up handing out leaflets with a full-court press in the Bay Area media and on Bay Area politicians.

The end result was the California Transportation Commission capitulating from previous stances and funding the 120 Bypass decades ahead of schedule.

That battle, that was tactical. The need for recreation for future youth was an issue of a lack of resources.

Twenty-five years ago Snyder made a bold pitch. He asked developers headed by Atherton and Boyce to set aside land to Manteca for a community park.

That set in motion some serious brainstorming and long-range thinking. Their answer set the stage for a great transformation as it broke the mold of Northern San Joaquin Valley development attitudes. Not only would the developers offer to set aside land for a community park but they’d sell it to the city for just $1. It amounted to a gift - in 1987 dollars of well over $600,000. But that wasn’t all. The developers made it clear that the deal was not in lieu of paying park growth fees. That meant with every home they built on surrounding land, they would pay several hundred dollars so the city could afford to develop the park.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Woodward Park was to a point that it had grass and trees plus most of the improvements you see today.

It is arguably one of the more impressive community parks designed for intensive use developed in the Northern San Joaquin Valley in the past 15 years.

It would not have happened if Snyder - along with developers - didn’t have a shared vision that Manteca could and should break the mold.

Manteca has gotten a lot of bang from that one buck.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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