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Manteca: 62 parks & counting
People enjoying the shade this past summer at Woodward Park. - photo by HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

Often when Kevin Fant provides people with his job title he gets the same response: “Oh, you’re the guy that oversees the cutting of all the grass.”

And while it is true as Manteca’s Park and Recreation Director there’s close to 400 acres of grass and landscaping to take care off, there’s much more to what he oversees.

There are 62 city parks plus recreation facilities such as Lincoln swimming pool, tennis courts, picnic areas, baseball and soccer fields, golf course, BMX track, Tidewater Bikeway and more.

There’s a sizeable urban forest of street, golf course and park trees that number in excess of 17,000 according to the 2013 municipal audit.

It includes the Manteca Senior Center plus a host of adult and youth recreation programs running from tiny tot soccer to cooking and dance classes, art classes, and exercise classes.

After school programs at numerous elementary schools in addition to summer day camps.

And before you disparage the crews that cut the grass and maintain the parks that Fant oversees, consider this: The national average for cities is to have one worker caring for every 10 acres of parks. Manteca has 19 parks workers. That comes out to one worker for every 21 acres of parks.

Manteca’s park workers have a history dating back long before the Great Recession and budget cuts of doing more per worker than their counterparts in nearby cities as well as constantly looking for more efficient and effective ways to get the job done.

Fant also is working more efficiently these says. He was hired as parks operations manager 8.5 years ago. Then two years ago he was appointed as director while still staying in charge of overseeing the day-to-day parks maintenance efforts. He also works on moving forward new projects with the help of one other staff member.

Fant is apologetic for the time it has taken to move some projects forward in recent years even though the city has slashed staff.

“We appreciate people being patient,” he told Manteca Rotarians during a presentation Thursday at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room.

Among the park projects that are currently in the process of moving forward are
Manteca’s first dog park: Plans for the park that will go immediately north of the Parks & Recreation office at the Manteca Civic Center are in the process of being drafted to allow the project to be built in 2016.

Upgrade of the Northgate Park picnic shelter. Work will be done next year to replace the aging structure with one similar to those installed in the last two years at Woodward Park and Lincoln Park. Improvements will also be made to the restrooms.

Manteca Civic Center turf removal. Large, expansive grass areas will be removed and replaced with low water use landscaping.

Park master plan. The city’s first document outlining the parks and recreation needs for the community will be completed in 2016.