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Lake Manteca: Out-of-the-box thinking for the next big city park

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POSTED July 2, 2013 2:49 a.m.

Lodi has Lodi Lake. Stockton has Oak Grove Park.

Manteca could have a park element that takes it a step beyond both. And it could do so while striving to meet wetland goals and address future concerns about disposal of treated wastewater.

As Manteca gears up in the coming year to devise a park master plan, serious thought needs to be given to the floodplain in southwest Manteca that has been designated as open space. It is bordered by a dry levee, is close to the Waltham Slough that provides access to the San Joaquin River, and it is between the wastewater treatment plant and the Hays Road property the city bought south of Manteca for future land disposal of treated wastewater.

Currently, the city’s wastewater is returned to the San Joaquin River west of Oakwood Shores. It is a popular location for anglers since the water released is significantly cleaner than river water and tends to attract fish. Tighter salinity standards that have been talked about for treated wastewater that is returned to the Delta from treatment plants would be an extremely expensive proposition if implemented. That is why city leaders in the past have batted about the idea of finding ways to dispose of treated wastewater in other fashions. One in place is irrigating crops used for growing livestock feed on land the city leases to a farmer at the treatment plant. The Hays Road property would replace those lands as the city property is converted into a family entertainment zone and a business park.

Manteca also has plans in place to irrigate the Big League Dreams sports complex with treated wastewater and even the landscaping at the adjoining Stadium Retail Center. Purple pipe designed to carry treated wastewater is being put in place as the 1,600-home Trails at Manteca community is developed in southwest Manteca immediately adjoining the open space.

It would make sense to utilize treated wastewater to transform the open space that is essentially acres of dry grass most of the year into restored valley woodlands with a water recreation element.

Money the city is required as part of a countywide settlement to secure and preserve open space for large scale developments could then be spent in Manteca and not elsewhere in the region.

Creating a nature preserve featuring a series of lakes with hiking trails is one possible way to develop the land. The lakes could be available for low-key water recreation such as paddle boats, kayaking and canoeing. Along the shores could be picnic areas, recreation venues and nature trails.

The city could also go in another direction and explore ways of connecting the open space with the Slough which in turn would provide access to the San Joaquin River from Manteca.

The area is large enough that other recreation activities could take place there including additional soccer fields or simply a large expanse of low-growing natural grasses. A 1,000-seat amphitheater designed for outdoor concerts and plays that have been talked about as part of Woodward Park might better be located in the open space area instead.

It would ultimately be a lush, natural setting with a small forest of trees much like similar venues that can be found in Oregon where weekly summer and spring concert and plays are a huge draw. And as such it would be more inviting than a Woodward Park amphitheater. Woodward Park can serve recreation needs better by expanding on its design to host more active endeavors such as soccer, baseball and tennis.

The park master plan also would address neighborhood parks, continued development of the separated bike path system, and another major community park east of Highway 99.

It might also touch on a performing arts center and a library as both are key elements of a well-rounded parks and recreation system.

What the master plan shouldn’t do is take a cookie cutter of tried and true ideas. It needs to look at things differently and take into account unique opportunities that Manteca has created.

But perhaps most important developing a parks master plan must be accompanied by a plan to actively engage people and to get them to buy into long-term projects.

A performing arts center is wishful thinking without strong community-based support groups. That would include developing opportunities for plays, lecture series and concerts before such a facility is put in place. And to make it work it needs to be either private sector driven through non-profits or a tandem effort of the city and the community.

If not, all the city will be doing is investing $150,000 to create yet another report that will either repeat obvious moves and/or help collect more dust bunnies at the Civic Center.

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

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