By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Manteca’s bid to ‘save’ Library Park & help it reach its envisioned potential
library park homeless
In this file photo from 2019, Manteca Police officer Mike Kelley interacts with a homeless man who had been sleeping at the Library Park gazebo/bandstand. It is illegal for anyone to be in city parks overnight.

Saturday in the park.

It used to be the thing in Manteca.

Actually, it used to be the thing every day.

The park is Library Park.

Couples would drop by just to lay on the grass and chat.

Some would take advantage of the stately sycamores and seating to read a book or simply take five.

Typically, noontime often saw downtown workers and others enjoying lunch while outdoors.

The gleeful sound of children scampering around on playground equipment along with the occasional chirping of birds created a soothing melody.

Weekends were special.

Depending upon the time of the year there could be a car show, a mini-festival celebrating things such as Cinco de Mayo or a mini-concert on the bandstand.

Evening farmers markets were a weekly summer occurrence beneath the cooling, stately sycamore trees.

People would actually take advantage of the setting to use the gazebo-style bandstand for wedding ceremonies.

The appeal Library Park held as a community gathering place inspired council leaders and community members two decades ago to build on it in a bid to create synergy for downtown.

The vision was for Library Park to essentially become a town square to draw even more people downtown.

The city tore out a stretch of Poplar Avenue.

The footprint of the park was nearly doubled.

The park was merged seamlessly into the Tidewater Bikeway.

An interactive water play feature was added.

It’s design was unique, in operating Manteca’s history and the railroad nearby.

A second playground was added.

The older gazebo/bandstand was removed and replaced with a bigger version.

Amphitheater seating accommodating 75 people was added.

A sound wall to block the view of the adjoining Frontier telephone facility was designed to allow the adding of murals, including one celebrating Library Park’s roots as the town baseball park.

To top it off, a bocce court was added.

All in all, more than $1.2 million was invested to situate Library Park as an even more robust community gathering plus as a catalyst for downtown’s transformation.

The future looked bright.

So what happened?

In one word.


As irony would have it, just as the finishing touches were put on the park expansion and makeover 13 years ago, the homeless problem started going from being a background issue to front and center.

Homeless numbers grew in Manteca as they did in many other communities.

Given it is a public space, the homeless have as much right to hang out there as those who  are housed.

Some outright broke laws such as drug use, leaving their syringes and such strewn on the ground, in the restrooms, and in trash cans.

They took over the courtyard of the nearby library as an overnight flop house.

They broke lights. They spliced into electrical lines to charge cellphones and such.

They urinated on the cement. They did the No. 2 in bushes. They left their trash behind.

Between the manpower and material costs, the daily struggle to make the area presentable to the public before the library opened was costing the city $15,000 a year.

The homeless, besides hanging out during the day, took to stacking their belongings on the grass alongside them.

Some were hanging around playground equipment. Nothing improper or nefarious happened but parents were uneasy.

In fact, the perception of the look of homeless hanging at Library Park was likely worse in terms of keeping  people away than much of the actual crimes they committed.

The city management locked up the restrooms.

Police enforced the overnight closure policy for city parks to eliminate overnight sleeping on the bandstand and elsewhere.

City crews on a daily basis stepped up their game so by the time the morning bustle started all traces of what the homeless left behind were gone.

The city spent $7,500 on wrought fencing to secure the library courtyard.

In doing so, they also created a pleasant outdoor area for library patrons to read or simply relax.

The police department’s homeless outreach officers worked with the homeless encouraging them to avoid being in close proximity to the playgrounds and it worked.

Officers also make daily rounds to roust the homeless after legally sleeping where they can legally do so from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on the wide expanse of sidewalk in front of the library along Center Street.

In short, the city has done everything they can legally do so under court orders as well as federal and state laws to address the community’s homeless concerns.

Yet, Library Park is still being used less and less by the community.

The city is not throwing up its hands in frustration.

Some believe that is the case with the city’s bid fo secure a private user for all, or part, of Library Park.

The city is not writing off Library Park.

They are aiming to bring it back.

Doing so, they are thinking out of the box.

Their intent is to find a private sector partner to lease the park.

That may sound nuts, but it isn’t.

One possible use is turning it into a food court with recreational components.

The park could be secured with wrought iron fencing.

More food trucks could be parked along the stub section of Poplar Avenue south of Center Street that would be permanently closed off.

The park’s existing recreational features — and others that could possibly be added — would still be accessible to the general public at no charge of the general public.

Mini-concerts and community events could take place.

And because the park is leased to a private concern, it goes from being public to quasi-public.

Think shopping center.

What that means is loitering per se, panhandling, and a myriad of homeless related behavioral problems can be enforced.

But it is more than just taking back Library Park and getting the town square vision back on track.

It would create arguably the most robust “food court” around.

Instead of an expansion of concrete and asphalt to place tables and chairs on, there is plenty of grass and existing picnic tables under a mature natural shade canopy.

And it comes with ample recreational components.



This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at