Jack Snyder wanted a community park for Manteca.
And it couldn’t be just any park.
It had to be 50 acres so that the city could build recreation facilities that were needed for youth and young adults alike.
It also had to cost the city nothing to acquire the land.
Snyder also knew where he wanted the park. It had to go south of the 120 Bypass.
It was a long shot for two reasons. The general plan update that was being wrapped up under the leadership of a young city planner by the name of Ben Cantu had treated the freeway as a barrier to the city growing to the south. Development south of the Bypass wasn’t in the cards.
Snyder also has to convince someone to donate the land to the city. Manteca was far from flush with cash given they were recovering from a devastating financial situation caused by growth overwhelming services leaving the general fund at one point with a razor-thin $1,000 reserve.
Snyder, who was mayor, told planning staff at a council meeting taking place in 1985 that he wanted a swath of land south of the Bypass included in the general plan. He then called on an up and coming home builder putting in place the Springtime Estates neighborhood along Louise Avenue and building the Park Place Apartments on Union Road. That developer was Mike Atherton who was backed by Albert Boyce.
They had purchase farmland that includes almond orchards from Lester Schmiedt.
Manteca paid $1 for
land valued at $2M+
Snyder told Atherton what he wanted to see happen.
After mulling it over with Boyce, the partners were on board.
But instead of 50 acres it would be 52 acres. And due to legal requirements, the land wasn’t free but ultimately was sold for less than two cents an acre for a grand total of $1.
The land was worth in excess of $2 million at the time
“Jack made it all happen,” Atherton said. “He’s why there is a Woodward Park and a South Manteca.”
For their part, Atherton and his partners clearly understood the city’s financial situation added a stipulation. There would be no strings attached to the donation of the 52 acres. They would pay the full freight of any park fee in place when they went to build a home. Typically when developers “gift” land for a park, school, fire station, or some other government facility they get credits equal to the value against growth fees collected for the purpose the land would be developed to serve such as a park.
“I think it’s time that this council takes steps to secure another community park,” Snyder said on Monday. “It needs to go up north.”
And Snyder, who is now 94, knows exactly where it should go. It should ring the Lovelace Transfer Station with deliberately designed woodlands screening to separate the two.
Snyder noted since the odds aren’t great for the transfer station to be moved placing a community park there in the general plan would be the best option.
Developers are gearing up to submit annexation plans to the city for the area north of Lathrop Road.
Snyder pushed for
Snyder on a number of occasions has stepped up to the plate not just to advocate for parks in Manteca but to make sure they could be developed and put to use.
The first involved Southside Park. The city had come into possession of two-story barracks-style housing that had been built decades earlier on the property. Then City Manager Dick Jones wanted the city to build apartments. Snyder thought the best use was turning the parcel into a park. Snyder managed to convince his council colleagues to go with the park.
A few years prior to securing Woodward Park for the city Snyder led the charge on the council to secure the land for what would become Northgate Park.
Manteca was annexing to the north to include land that is now around where New Haven School is located San Joaquin County had bought property in the area for a park. Snyder saw it as an opportunity for the city to obtain the park site from the county and annex it with nearby land. City Manager Jones was against the plan.
Jones didn’t like the idea of city taxpayers having to pay for park upkeep. Snyder saw the possibility for improvements such as the softball diamonds, open playing fields, playgrounds and picnic area.
Snyder, though, prevailed. The result was Northgate Park.
The former county park today is known as Northgate Park.
Snyder also was part of the council majority that pushed for neighborhood parks within a mile of each home that was built in the city, much like it was back in Ohio where he cut his teeth in parks as a non-paid recreation program director for the town of Perrysburg.
Those parks — encompassing some drainage basins that provided additional grassy areas behind the basic requirements — is why Manteca on a per capita basis has more municipal parks than other jurisdictions in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Other cities when requiring storm retention basins back in the 1980s had them separate from parks behind cyclone fences that were left in their natural habitat of weeds and brush.
You could argue Snyder has earned the moniker of “Champion of Manteca Parks.”
Involvement with parks
started as non-paid city
recreation director in Ohio
His involvement in parks started long before he moved to Manteca in 1962 to work as the industrial relations manager for the new auto glass plant Libby-Owens-Ford was opening in Lathrop.
Back in Perrysburg — a northern Ohio town of 5,700 at the time — his sons were involved in an organized youth baseball league. Snyder wasn’t pleased with how games were conducted as parents openly belittled umpires.
The league took place at a city park where the tennis courts were the exclusive domain of a club and the swimming pool limited access to those within another organization.
Snyder kept making his way to City Council meetings making his displeasure known about the conduct of the league and lack of recreation opportunities in the community.
“Finally they got disgusted with me,” Snyder recalled. “One of (the council members) said we ought to make Snyder our recreation director.”
The rest of the council agreed appointing Snyder to the non-paid post. When Snyder asked what kind of budget he had Snyder was told point blank that there were none.
Working with no budget, Snyder was eventually able to organize leagues with 50 softball teams — one team for every 100 residents.
His push for tennis courts caught the attention of the wife of a Champion Sparks Plug company executive who asked him to stop by her home. Snyder left that meeting with a check to build tennis courts.
Snyder’s drive to upgrade the town’s recreation facilities prompted another person that gave him the heads up that the high school was putting in new lighting at the football field.
Snyder was able to get the school board to donate the existing lighting. Meanwhile the man that pointed out the availability of used sports field lights made arrangements for Toledo Power company and its union to put poles at the city softball fields on one Saturday and return the next to install the lights.
“There are a lot of things you can do when you get the community working together,” Snyder said,
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com