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Levee work forces closure of three parks for a year
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LATHROP – Lathrop Dog Park and two other parks along the San Joaquin River at Mossdale Landing will be closed for up to a year when levee improvements begin, which could happen as early as June.

The levee work is being done by Reclamation District 17 (RD 17) which owns the portion of the levee that runs along this section of the river in Lathrop. The district is also responsible for all the costs involved in the levee improvement work.

In addition to the Dog Park, River Park North and River Park South which includes the Dog Park will be impacted by the widening of the Lathrop levees. How much this widening will physically affect these linear parks along the river, and how they will be redesigned and rebuilt is still being worked out between the city and the reclamation district. The redesigning and rebuilding of the impacted parks will also be funded by the district.

But how these parks will be put back, what their new configurations will be, and what amenities will be lost, if any, is the reason the city is urging residents to attend the scheduled three hearings on this matter where they can provide input. The first of these discussion meetings will take place tonight when the Parks and Recreation Commission will meet at 6 o’clock in the Lathrop Senior Center at Valverde Park, 15707 Fifth Street. More discussions will take place at the Planning Commission meeting Wednesday, April 29, at 6 p.m., and at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 5, at 7 p.m., both to be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 390 Towne Centre Drive at Mossdale Landing.

Three parks affected; relocation of dog park
The total area of all three parks affected by the levee improvements is approximately seven to eight acres, said Lathrop Parks Project Manager Nathan Houx.

River Park North is located just south of the Dos Reis Regional Boat Ramp. The park was built by Pacific Union Homes as part of its development agreement with the city when it built the homes around it.

River Park South is located to the north of Mossdale Bridge and was built by KB Homes, also as part of the company’s development agreement with the city to provide a neighborhood park for the residential homes they were building. Attached to this southern linear park is the roughly two-acre Lathrop Dog Park which officially opened with a lot of fanfare just last year.

Because of the widening of the levees, some of the park areas could be lost. But depending on how the parks’ redesign will be implemented and how they are going to be reworked, the parks may end up not losing any space at all, Houx said. This is where input from the public will be necessary, he said.

The city wants the public, first of all, to know that these parks “would be closing and that there are going to be some impacts for the parks.” Next, the city would like to get the residents’ input as to how the parks are going to be put back together.

At these discussion meetings, “we’ll be talking about the design proposals and how (the parks) will be put back in; if they go back exactly where they are and not make it any smaller. We want to make them the same size (they are now),” Houx said.

Some parts of the affected parks “may have to be on top of this berm they’re building, or move to another location a little bit,” he added.

River Park South may be less impacted by the construction because the area there is a little bit wider than at River Park North, Houx said. However, if necessary, there is still city land available next to it where the park could be relocated, or some sections of it, to retain its current size.

All of these parks are fully developed with such amenities as benches, trash cans, and even a picnic center at River Park South.

The parks will need to be closed a year or a good part of it because “they have to get the levee improvements done, improve the parks and then wait for the grass to grow back,” which will all take some time, Houx explained.

Discussions at the scheduled meetings above also will include the possible temporary relocation of the Lathrop Dog Park during construction.

Levee improvements to take Lathrop out of flood plain
The purpose of all the levee improvements is to strengthen the levees so that RD 17 can get it accredited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Currently, the levees are on provisional accreditation which put these riverside areas in west Lathrop out of the flood plain. However, in 2007, FEMA officials decided they were not sure if these levees were still okay. So a two-year provisional accreditation was given to these levees. The improvement work RD 17 is doing on the levees is to show that they are  working to meet FEMA standards and that the levees meet the mandated protection level and, hopefully, get accreditation for that at the end of the provisional two-year period.

Lack of that accreditation would have very serious consequences for the city of Lathrop and residents. For the homeowners, it would mean significantly higher flood insurance premiums. At the worst, if FEMA determines that the protection level the RD 17 levees is providing is not adequate, that could be the death knell to all development on the west side of Interstate 5 in Lathrop.

Anyone with immediate questions about the parks’ closure or redesign can call the Lathrop Parks and Recreation Administration Division at (209) 941-7360.