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Baccilieri back in swing of things
95-year-old parks makeover is now complete
Adam Galindo, 7, is one of the first neighborhood kids to try out `the new playground equipment at Baccilieri Park bounded by Stockton, Wetmore, and Vine streets just south of downtown. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Lauren Braga just couldn’t wait.

Seconds after workers gave the OK Thursday afternoon that everything was fine for the Baccilieri Park’s just-installed playground equipment, Lauren - grinning like the Cheshire Cat - was scrambling up a ladder to become the first kid to christen the new slide.

Lauren wasn’t the only one anxious to see the construction fence come down around the playground in the triangle-shaped park bounded by Wetmore, Stockton and Vine streets just south of downtown. At least six cars filled with smiling people slowed down to watch several kids scramble over the playground equipment for the first time.

“It’s great,” said Toni Castro, Lauren’s grandmother, who lives just across the street. “This is just what the neighborhood needed.”
Castro moved to the neighborhood in 1946 where her parents initially pitched a large tent while building their home. She remembers playing on a merry go-round that eventually was popular with her children including Mary and Charlene May until it was taken out when it fell into disrepair in the 1970s.

Charlene recalled how they used to use the old swing set – that was removed due to it being a safety hazard – to see who could grab a branch on a nearby tree.

“We have plenty of scrapped knees and bruised elbows,” Charlene said with a laugh.

That won’t happen on the new playground as steel has been replaced with high-impact molded plastic-type materials while wood fiber has replaced sand and dirt.

Castro said she was looking forward to hear more of the squealing and laughter of kids at play. She looks forward to twice weekly neighborhood soccer matches that kids organize in the park that also includes a baseball back stop.

Over the past several years, the city has used federal pass-through Community Development Block Grant money to make a laundry list of improvements to the park. They include perimeter sidewalks; placing Tidewater-style furnishings including benches and trash receptacles; water fountain, upgraded irrigation; and burying a power line that once crossed the park to provide electricity to a streetlight placed for security.

George Montross, City of Manteca Park Planning and Development Superintendent, was thrilled that city staff had been able to speed up the timetable to complete the work so a request could be honored from the neighborhood to celebrate the park’s rebirth on Saturday with a big Fourth of July party. Wetmore Street is being blocked to allow the celebration. Montross credited park maintenance superintendent Matt Contreras and his crew for making that happen. They were busy Thursday doing some final lawn care and tidying up before the three-day weekend.

Baccilieri is Manteca’s oldest park having been donated by A. Baccilieri 95 years ago to the Board of Trade – the precursor to the City Council – for community use. Baccilieri founded the water system – Manteca Water Works - that served the city starting in 1900. It was eventually bought by the city in 1928.

Montross has been enthused about the community input received on the park project. They consistently were able to draw 30-plus people to planning meetings who had a deep affection for the park that has been part of the Manteca landscape since 1914.

“This is a good neighborhood,” Castro said. “We watch out for each other here.”
It is where Caser Chavez camped overnight with his followers in the early days of the farm workers movement after marching to Manteca and giving a speech at Library Park.

Castro recalls how neighbors ran electricity from their homes to provide power for the camp and cooked meals to share and joined in singing and fellowship.

Baccilieri is the latest park to receive a playground makeover as part of a long-range municipal strategy to replace damaged equipment or unsafe equipment based on tougher new standards. Other parks are Shasta, Greystone, Colony, Library, and Hildebrand. Two playground areas were installed at Woodward Park several years ago as the 52-acre community complex was readied for major use.
Next up on the city’s list are Springtime and Sequoia parks. Playgrounds should be installed during the current fiscal year using restricted funds. After that, Quail Ridge and Mayors parks will receive new equipment.

The Quail Ridge playground is being designed using a new steel product that reduces safety concerns and is fire resistant. The original playground at Quail Ridge on Mission Ridge Drive was destroyed by an arsonist.