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Making room for new Old Town park
East Union High sophomore Devon Lemar maneuvers his spinning bike during a practice session at Lathrop Skate Park Wednesday afternoon. The skate park is scheduled for expansion. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
LATHROP – The three young visitors were oblivious to the cold. And their enthusiasm was in sharp contrast to the gloomy, overcast sky as they practiced their flying and grinding tricks on the challenging courses of the state-of-the-art Lathrop Skate Park.

East Union High School sophomore Devon Lemar was doing dare-devil high jumps and spins on his purple Sputnik coaster bike. His friend Robbie Linch, a junior at Calla High, was doing the same thing with his Fit Trail Signature red bike.

Sharing the park with the two teen-agers was Ivyn Taasin, a certified nursing assistant by profession but is currently employed at the Daily Grind Skate Shop in Stockton which, conveniently enough, is his sponsor at various skating competitions including the well attended event about a month ago held at the Lathrop Skate Park.

The three are frequent visitors to the Lathrop skate park because they like the variety of challenges that they find here plus, as Lemar and Linch put it, there are “not many potheads here.”

The trio of skate park users said they can’t wait to see this recreation facility expanded. They’ve been hearing about it for a while now, they said, and would like to know when it will become a reality.

Expansion is indeed part of the master plan for the entire block owned by the city along Seventh Street just a block east of Lathrop Elementary School and Valverde Park. But that will not be part of the $4 million Phase One construction of the East Lathrop Community Complex master plan. The skate park expansion, along with an art walk, an outdoor stage and play equipment will happen after the building that will be the new house of the Lathrop Public Library and youth center is completed.

Before the three-acre block can be fully developed according to the master plan, the area needs to be rid of a couple of old buildings. The demolition of these two structures is covered by the $4 million allocation, plus the construction of the 7,000-square-foot library and youth center. That’s just half of the building complex outlined in the park’s master plan.

One of the buildings, a small white structure on the southeast corner of the block, served as the office of the Lathrop County Water District prior to incorporation. It now functions as office for the city’s corporation yard. The demolition of the building and the relocation of the city’s corporation yard to the old Lague Sales on Louise Avenue will make room for the skate park expansion, for one thing. The city purchased the 12-acre Lague property about two years ago for a bigger corporation yard and for an arsenic-reduction plant that the city needs to build to meet law requirements in the city’s drinking water.

The other building that needs to be removed from this block is an old house that the city purchased after the owners complained to the city about a laundry list of problems that they said were caused by the skate park. The city planted the row of Italian cypress trees on the west side of the skate park to resolve the issue of noise the homeowners complained about.

After the city bought the house, it was boarded up because the city deemed it unsafe for use.

In an effort to save the city money, Councilman Robert Oliver said he offered the building as a fire-training demonstration to the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District.

“I thought, maybe we can get it burned for nothing and the fire department gets a chance to train their men,” Oliver said.

“But it was just too complicated – all these stuff you have to deal with and fill out and get certified – and expensive,” he said.

Years ago, Oliver said, “we burned the Ryhiner house” on Fifth Street to make room for the building of the Senior Center at Valverde Park. The city had purchased the property from the family of Lathrop’s first postmaster.

But after talking to Lathrop-Manteca Fire District Chief Fred Manding, Oliver said he discovered that “regulations have changed since then and it’s a complicated process to burn a house now – just too complicated and expensive.”

It is also necessary to remove the boarded-up house because of it being “what is legally called an attractive nuisance. But nothing has happened to it, so we’ve been fortunate,” Oliver said.