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Barebones Maple Avenue Plaza ideal for community partnership

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POSTED August 4, 2017 1:52 a.m.

Manteca does a lot of things right.
But then what is done right is often undone.
The reason for this in many cases is manpower.
The best illustration is the Parks & Recreation maintenance staff. Before the Great Recession hit, a survey showed Manteca’s Parks & Rec crews maintained far more park acres per worker than anywhere else in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. It is the result of Manteca “doing it right.” The city’s goal is to have a park within a half mile walking distance of every home.  Due to that, the city has 70 plus parks and counting — the highest per capita in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
After years of squeezing money and maximizing resources when it comes to park maintenance, things are starting to fall to the wayside with greater frequency.
One example is the mini-plaza put in 14 years ago on Maple Avenue in the city parking lot across from the Post Office. It was part of the $3 million plus downtown streetscape upgrades from traffic signals and street lights to tree plantings.
The trees and shrubs that were part of the plaza are now history.
It doesn’t have to be that way nor does the city have to go looking for paid manpower.
Instead, they can dust off the old Manteca playbook from the 1970s and 1980s or rip a page from Ripon’s game plan and enlist volunteers.
Volunteers can’t help much in other areas where city staff has been cut to the bone and beyond such as street maintenance that was slashed in half when the Great Recession hit. Staffing levels have yet to bounce back despite the city adding more streets to maintain.
Volunteers, though, can handle adopting small parks department projects. In Ripon, the Ripon Garden Club does maintenance and replants the downtown decorative planters that provide a great deal of ambiance to the community’s central district.
The Maple Avenue plaza is a perfect for a service club or non-profit organization to adopt.
It has 20 sprinklers in place already so there is no major work needed to make sure anything that is planted will survive.
What is required for a club is the initial purchase and planting of trees and shrubs to city specifications as well as perhaps once a week follow ups for a few months while the plantings become established. And then maybe a twice a year effort would be needed to prune, clean-up or replace anything that may have died or been damaged. The service group might even elect to purchase ground cover such as bark to city specifications to further enhance the plaza. They could even do a once-a-year “polishing” of the plaza by scrubbing benches and power washing the brick pavers that have become dingy over the years.
There are a lot of small areas in the city as well as its parks that small groups could adopt like the Manteca Garden Club has with the rose garden at the Manteca Senior Center.
There would be the additional benefit of people having a greater buy-in to their community.
Manteca can look a lot better. All it takes is to get people to work together.
Establishing a list of areas the community could adopt would set a new tone and get Manteca closer to being an even more enticing place to live.

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