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Learning a lesson from Lincoln Park
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It is arguably the most efficiently used park on a square-foot basis in Manteca.
It doesn’t have wide expanses of “just grass.” Nor is there the prerequisite storm drain basin that started popping up with regularity in the 1980s to not only solve perennial flooding issues that come with being a “flatland” town in the San Joaquin Valley but to essentially ensure that Manteca is closing in today on a remarkable 70 parks.
It is also, ironically, where Manteca’s stealth population — the homeless that aren’t in your face nor pass out from drinking on public sidewalks — pause before seeking cover for the night after the bewitching hour of 8 p.m. when parks not being used for an organized sanctioned activity legally close.
The park — Lincoln Community Park — gets roughly half of its size from being melted in with the Lincoln Elementary School campus.
The oldest community park in Manteca established in the 1950s has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years. Its playground apparatus — among the top four locations in Manteca for variety and sheer square footage — has been replaced. The lighted baseball field has been upgraded and is used not just by youth baseball teams but the Manteca High junior varsity baseball team as well.
Its new picnic shelters are a hit with families, reunions, parties, teens hanging out and the homeless. The twain, so to speak, never meet as families, reunions, and parties occupy it during the weekends, teens during the tolerable hours of summer days and in the early evenings, and the homeless after hours.
Lincoln Park swimming pool — as small as it may be — is the only public swim option for Manteca’s 75,000 residents. It has added a state-of-the-art wheelchair lift.
This is a place where you can use city-built restrooms before they are locked at night. They have issues but never to the degree of those in Library Park underscoring how well-used parks tend to generate less troublesome issues. Yes, that is a hint for the Manteca City Council to bite the bullet and make the interactive water play feature at Library Park operational once again.
The boys — and girls — of spring and summer fill the baseball fields made possible by additions put in place by Manteca’s ABC of service clubs decades ago on the school campus portion of the park. As August draws near, youth football and soccer teams line up to secure practice times on the same fields.
It would behoove Manteca’s elected leaders — both on the City Council and Manteca Unified school board — to ponder the Lincoln Park success story.  In the coming years the new reality of growth will virtually dictate a revival of the partnership that created Lincoln Park for the benefit of both the community as a whole and school children.
Just like in the 1950s when limited financial resources forged a three-legged partnership between the city, school district, and service clubs the future holds both financial and amenity challenges.
There will be at least three opportunities — if not three times that — arising south of the 120 Bypass in the coming years to build upon the Lincoln Community Park partnership model.
District Superintendent Jason Messer believes the opportunity exists to wed elementary school sites with neighborhood parks much like as at Shasta School, Brock Elliott School, Cowell School, and McParland School with one big difference: From the very start of planning they should be pursued as joint use ventures.
That means multiple-purpose rooms/gyms would be sited to allow for parks and recreation run after-school activities. The regimented playing fields/expansive grass areas would be designed to do double-duty for schools until mid-afternoon on weekdays and then late afternoons and weekends for the community. From the very beginning they will be viewed as home for future or expanded youth sport leagues.
Messer goes one step further by addressing ongoing upkeep, maintenance and replacement of commonly shared areas. The city, which now requires neighborhood maintenance to be covered via community facilities districts/landscape maintenance districts, would provide the umbrella funding mechanism to cover ongoing costs.
Such a strategy reduces demands on the general funds for both the city and the school district. It also reduces excess grass space to maintain by getting more efficient use out community amenities. That in turn reduces upfront costs as well as ongoing costs.
The city’s fourth comprehensive high school that Manteca Unified is planning along Tinnin Road can yield even more saving and even more benefits.
The library could be developed as a joint use facility just like Manteca Unified and the City of Stockton have in place at Weston Ranch. Amenities such as the swimming pool, tennis courts as well as baseball and softball fields can be located in such a manner that after school, weekend, and summer use can occur with ease. Upkeep and replacement costs could be spread across multiple CFDs south of the 120 Bypass. Taxpayers wouldn’t be funding duplicate facilities that don’t have overlapping use times nor paying to maintain twice the number of amenities than are needed.
The school district and city serve the same community using funds taken from the same taxpayers.
A partnership centered around future schools and parks is good government and public stewardship in the truest sense.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.