Manteca’s elected leaders deserve credit for not pushing forward with the wholesale destruction of the Woodward Avenue neighborhood west of South Main Street simply because “the plan” adopted years ago said it was for the greater good.
Things had changed. Atherton Drive wasn’t envisioned as a four-lane thoroughfare about a quarter mile to the north when textbook planners thought Woodward Avenue would best serve growth south of the 120 Bypass by being a major four-lane street.
The city tweaked the road plan. Woodward west of South Main will be a wide, two-lane street with an expansive tree-lined center dividers keeping the semi-rural character of the 70-plus existing homes intact.
Manteca leaders need to apply the same common sense and rethink Woodward Park.
The 52-acre park has been envisioned as a community park from Day One. Contrary to some misinformation floating around out there, those living in the Woodward Park Landscape Maintenance District do not pay a special tax for the park’s upkeep. Their annual assessment goes to cover the cost of common landscape areas. General tax revenue from everyone in Manteca pays for the maintenance of Woodward Park.
Woodward Park originally was envisioned as a community baseball complex. Then along came the Big League Dreams sports complex debate. Nearby residents rightfully viewed the baseball-complex-on-steroids as a bit too intense. The solution was to locate BLD where it is today.
That opened the door for soccer fields. When park planning first took place, soccer as a popular youth sport was in its infancy. Manteca’s leaders tweaked the park plans.
The weekend parking situation during soccer play - especially tournaments - has created problems in the neighborhood. People have parked in front of fire hydrants, blocked driveways and parked illegally on corners.
One solution is to reduce Woodward Avenue between Bridewell Avenue and South Main Street to two lanes with 160 diagonal parking spaces plus a “parking lane” to get in and out of spaces without blocking traffic.
It would dovetail nicely into what is being implemented along Woodward Avenue west of South Main Street. Atherton Drive’s missing link between South Main and Van Ryn Avenue is now under construction. That means one objection to the parking plan that Woodward Avenue spikes in traffic volume when the 120 backs up will disappear. That’s because you will be able to get off Union Road and take Atherton Drive all the way to Woodward Avenue near where it intersects with Moffat. And when Atherton Drive is connected from Union Road to Airport Way even more pressure will be taken off Woodward.
The city’s “temporary” parking solution for Woodward - which by staff’s best estimate would be able to stay at least 12 to 15 years or so before traffic volume might start picking up - could possibly be permanent if Atherton Drive develops as envisioned.
That is why city leaders should table plans to go ahead with developing parking spaces at the southeast corner of Woodward Park at Bridewell and Heartland Drive. The city has budgeted several hundred thousand dollars of park fees for the parking lot project.
Its location makes it highly unlikely that it will get extensive use.
Instead of using it for parking, why not ask the neighborhood residents what they’d like to see there instead? The park is used extensively in the morning and evening by neighborhood joggers and walkers in groups and as families.
Maybe they’d like to see a “neighborhood park” within the community park created with a separate playground area and exercise stations. Granted, the entire community could use the park but its location in a relatively isolated spot of Woodard Park from the main playground, BBQ area and soccer fields means it will probably be heaviest used by those in the neighborhood.
While there are neighbors that abhor the idea that Woodward Park has been “turned into a regional soccer facility” the reason the park is 52 acres is because it is a community park that serves regional needs just as Northgate Park does. And it is markedly better to have visitors park on Woodward Avenue where no houses front than it is in front of houses.
As the area grows, there won’t be any opportunity to add more parkland in the immediate area.
The city can stretch its dollars by diverting part of that money to pay for the changes on Woodward Avenue for parking and then spending the rest to enhance neighborhood recreation and park opportunities on the southeast corner of the park instead of trading grass for asphalt.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.