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Mistlin Park: Ripons playground Mecca
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Children from Modesto and Lathrop became fast friends on one of this weeks spring days as they scampered about the climbing feature at Mistlin Sports Park on River Road on the north side of Ripon east of Jack Tone Road. - photo by GLENN KAHL

The 100-acre Mistlin Sports Park probably offers the most to more people than the 19 other play areas in the Ripon community that range in size from a quarter of an acre to the near 28-acre Mavis Stouffer Park along the Stanislaus River.

Mistlin has the best drawing cards for youngsters from the state-of-the-art water feature and climbing tower with slides to a chance of running through the lush grass flying their kites. Mistlin has recently installed four softball diamonds around the water tower at a cost of more than $4 million dollars.

Older children fill the many soccer fields on weekends and the baseball diamonds on the northeast of the grounds. A series of batting cages are often filled with young athletes. Two 20-acre parcels donated by Tony Mistlin have yet to be developed to the east and to the west.

Although, now in the middle of winter, the spring-like days have drawn children from outside the Ripon area with their parents and grandparents to watch them romp in the park and enjoy the playground facilities. Such was the case this week with two children under six years. The two found they had the play areas to themselves where they each made a new friend.

The annual Ripon Almond Festival at the end of every February is held at Mistlin Park, creating even more fun experiences for children and their parents along with the annual hot air balloon festival that raises funds for the Central Valley Children’s Hospital. Tony Mistlin, owner of Mistlin Honda in Modesto, has donated millions of dollars for the development of the park that bears his name.

Stouffer Park is another favorite in the community, where it adjoins the Spring Creek Golf and Country Club along the Stanislaus River. The big kids – 18 to 35 years old – play lob ball at twin fields in the summer evenings. A lower meadow area near the water provides additional picnic areas along with the stand of oak trees to the north. It is not uncommon to see a red fox running through the forested areas along the river. Stouffer Park also features a large gazebo.

The 55-acre Oak Grove Park is the entrance to the Riparian Forest and the bike bridge that takes members of the community in their athletic pursuits across the Stanislaus River adjacent to the Highway 99 freeway. It boasts picnic areas and biking trails, access to the river and is the proposed site of a dog park for pet owners in the community.

The Curt Pernice Skate Park has been a favorite for skateboarders from much of Central California and the Bay Area. It is located on Hughes Lane, behind City Hall and the Police Department and has been rated No. 1 in the state by Thrasher Magazine.

In total, Ripon boasts more than 300 acres that have been developed into parks.