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Manteca skate park still barebones, barren while inviting Ripon, Lathrop parks flourish
SKATE PARK UPGRADE1 6-22-17 copy
The barebones Manteca skate park. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

People flock to skate parks in Ripon and Lathrop.
Besides being designed as a full-fledged recreational amenity instead of to pacify skating advocates that spent six years hounding the City of Manteca to do something, the Ripon and Lathrop skate parks have high profile locations. They are easily accessible plus have extensive options, restrooms, grassy areas, and even working water fountains. Lathrop also has a snack bar at its skate park at the Generations Center. That is in stark contrast to Manteca’s skate park that was intentionally placed almost 18 years ago in what is arguably the most inaccessible skate park of any city.
The council back in 1999 rejected locations at the Civic Center where the dog park was eventually built as well as at the Union Park at the golf course as they bowed to arguments having skaters across from a funeral home would be disrespectful.
Then, after promising to spend $400,000 in bonus bucks collected from developers for sewer allocation certainty, the city slashed the amount to $150,000 to allow the diversion of $250,000 to help cover general fund budget shortfalls.
 Today the skate park — surrounded by barren dirt and weeds with piles of mulch nearby — looks as if it would be more at home in the rundown section of a Mojave Desert community. In short, it resembles more of a hell hole than an inviting city park.
It’s location sandwiched between a PG&E substation and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks  with the nearest access point being a walk of a good 600 plus feet from the nearest road — Center Street — was problematic from the start.
Young thugs — harassing younger skaters — using drugs, and carrying knives started populating the area within weeks of its completion. Its location made it a logistical nightmare for Manteca Police to patrol. Finally, a surveillance camera with a direct feed to the police dispatch center was installed virtually eliminating those problems.
Now the issue that some parents have with allowing their kids to use the skate park are the number of homeless that are bedding down behind bushes along the Tidewater Bikeway that runs past the facility.

Council members in 2013
suggested new skate park
next to Spreckels BMX track
The less than optimal skate park caught the attention of then Councilman Steve DeBrum during the 2013 municipal budgeting process.
DeBrum four years ago thought it was time for Manteca to start thinking about a new skate park possibly at a more high-profile location near the highly successful BMX track in Spreckels Park.
DeBrum’s suggestion was one of 70 budget-related questions and comments council members submitted to staff in regards for the 2013-14 fiscal year spending plan. It reflected how attitudes had changed toward skaters since the skate park was put in place in 1999.
DeBrum’s suggestion of Spreckels Park for a possible new skate park location was based on the premise the two recreational endeavors complement each other, the site is highly viable with parking available, and the city has a large expanse of land that could be utilized
Staff, in their reply to DeBrum in 2013, noted work was expected to get underway on a Parks and Recreation Master Plan for Manteca over the next 12 months. The staff indicated the need for an updated skate park or a new facility could be addressed through the public input process associated with development of the master plan.
It ended up taking three years to start work on the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

Master plan adopted
in December suggests
possible skate park move
That master plan — adopted  last December — called for evaluating moving the skate park to the Spreckels Park near the BMX track. It also noted a “wheels park” could be developed with the addition of the skate park in the storm retention basin/park for $350,000. The master plan suggested spending $50,000 to convert the problematic existing skate park to a community garden or other uses.
Such a move would also fulfill a promise a previous council made in 2001 after being lobbied by parents to install restrooms, extensive landscaping, and benches. Redevelopment agency money was budgeted for such work for three straight years before being dropped from the budget in 2005. The city did add benches as well as a wrought iron fence to prevent skaters from crossing the tracks to access the skate park.
The master plan recommends spending $175,000 to build restrooms at the BMX track, install more night security lighting at a cost of $125,000, slurry seal the parking lot for $30,000, and spend $50,000 repairing fencing.
But whether anything will happen even with a master plan and updated community park facility fees now in place is doubtful for two reasons: The City Council has made no moves toward prioritizing projects after accepting the master plan they have said for years is crucial to allow a concerted and planned effort to expand and upgrade recreational facilities. Plus they have made no moves to explore how to fund the non-growth portion of the tab.
The tab for the wish list for Manteca recreation facilities over the next 20 years will cost at least $75 million based on the master plan the council adopted in December.
If all goes according to plan, new housing that will add 44,000 residents by 2036 to push the city’s population to 120,000 will cover $52 .1 million of the tab. The $25.7 million question is where will the rest of the money come to cover the balance of the tab? Then there is the unanswered question posed by Mayor DeBrum seven months ago: How much will it all cost to maintain and how will the city cover the tab?
The mayor in December also cautioned people to keep in mind that the real cost could easily be $150 million or more to complete the wish list as construction costs rise in the coming years. That assumes the city addresses projects on a pay as you go basis instead of incurring interest costs by borrowing.
State law is clear that growth can only be charged for the needs they create. That means existing residents to the tune of almost $12,000 a household would have to be tapped in some manner to cover the $25.7 million funding gap. And that would not include ongoing maintenance costs.
 The only funding source previous councils have ever been willing to pursue to cover the non-growth cost of recreational facilities has been asking the state for a parks and recreation grant.
Not getting grant money is why after two tries in the late 1990s and early 2000s that the city dropped working towards new library facilities that they insisted was a high priority.
The master plan delineates various funding options to augment growth fees including revenue bonds, certificates of participation, revenue from operations, special assessment districts, Mello-Roos taxes, special taxes and philanthropy.
Council members in December noted, just because an item was on the adopted list of recommended parks master plan projects doesn’t mean it will be built. The document is designed to serve as a general framework to guide the city over the next two decades and to be used as a starting point for more detailed endeavors.
Seven months into the 20-year outlook there has been no council movements on ramping up to pursue any of the projects in the study they spent six figures to create.
The $75 million tab in today’s dollars includes $15.7 million to upgrade existing facilities including $1 million for senior center renovations and a modest expansion, $11.6 million for an aquatics center, $7.1 million for a gym, and $24.6 million for special use parks such as soccer and baseball as well as $15.7 million for community parks.
By the time neighborhood parks that the developers are required to put in place are factored in, a typical new home buyer on Manteca will have the equivalent of $7,164 in park fees collapsed into the price of a home. That is slightly higher than Lodi at $7,103 and almost the same of Lathrop at $7,188. It is lower than Tracy at $7,557, Patterson at $7,805, and Ripon at $13,842.
The Manteca fee is higher than Modesto at $5,410, Stockton at $3,039, and Turlock at $2,984.
The community park fee portion for new housing was established at $3,740 for a single family dwelling and $2,612 for every housing unit in multiple-family structures such as apartment complexes or duplexes. 

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email