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Parks: Back to the future
Pay to play emerging as trend in Manteca
The corner of Woodward Park at Bridewell and Woodward avenues where a dog park is proposed may require community participating in picking up some of the cost to make it a reality. - photo by Bulletin file photo
There was a time 30 years ago and longer that if the community deemed recreational facilities were needed, volunteers would join forces with local government agencies to share the cost of constructing them.

It is how the youth baseball fields were developed at Lincoln Park through efforts of service clubs such as the Lions, Rotary and Kiwanis. It is also how some school district sports facilities such as the original Guss Schemidt Field for football at Manteca High was created.

It is also how the long-awaited dog park may become a reality at the northeast corner of Woodward Avenue and Bridewell Avenue in Woodward Park.

“There’s no way in this economy that the dog park can be built right now,” noted Councilman John Harris. “Originally, we were promised by a community group that they’d help fund it. I think that is what you are going to need to see to make it happen.”

The Parks and Recreation Commission meets Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Manteca Senior Center, 295 Cherry Lane, to review the dog park that carries a $133,901.40 price tag as presented by staff.

Harris noted that it is still important for the commission to define the project and prioritize it if it is to move forward when more park growth fees come in as new housing picks up. The commission could also recommend rethinking existing priorities for money that is already in hand and put the dog park ahead of other projects if it is fiscally possible.

Even so, Harris believes that it shouldn’t go forward without some type of community-based group participating in the funding.

It is a partnership that is working in Spreckels Park where the Andersons’ 209 BMX team is picking up the tab for tens of thousands of dollars of work plus helping police and maintain the BMX track targeted to open this spring.

Having primary users help build – or pay for the construction and operation – of recreation facilities actually started in earnest with the Big League Dreams sports complex.

The biggest group of users, which is organized softball teams and indoor soccer teams, are paying the fees and spending concession dollars with the contractor running the facility for the city. That in turn is helping BLD pay lease repayments to the city that is putting the money directly in the general fund since redevelopment dollars were used to construct the facility and pay for the actual cost of construction up front.

The park at other hours of the day when there are no tournaments or league play is available for use at no cost to people on a drop in basis.

The city also has started requiring new neighborhoods to have landscape maintenance districts that include the cost of upkeep of that neighborhood’s park that is put in place by the developer as a condition of their subdivision map approval.

There are two parks already with their maintenance covered through a landscape maintenance district.

The parks are still open to all comers. The rationale is that those who benefit and use the park the most – much like recreational facilities - should help pick up the cost.

It could lead to some inequities during a budget cutback. The park in Rodini Estates in the East Manteca triangle has maintenance costs predicated on doing the city’s establish parked maintenance standards of three years ago. If the city rolls back the level of services at neighborhood parks, it can’t at Rodini without lowering the assessment as the engineer’s report used based the costs on specific levels of service.