Tulare County Parks will get an $8 million facelift to improve amenities at marquee locations and smaller rural parks in communities that don’t have easy access to green spaces.
The money comes from the US Federal Bailout Act, which Congress passed last year.
“Major improvements” will affect nearly every park in Tulare County, from Mooney Grove to Cutler and Ledbetter, in an effort to improve the park experience and attract more families to outdoor spaces, the new director of parks, Albert Cendejas.
“What we would like is for our community members to know, wherever you are, that this is your park,” he said. “Yes, we work here, but these are your parks, and we want you to feel like you own every park you visit.”
This sense of belonging, says Cendejas, is essential for residents to invest in the future of the parks and transform them into places that the whole community can rally around.
“I hope the community outside the parks will also be reflected in the community entering the parks,” he added.
To that end, Tulare County Parks recently adopted a new logo and donor program for residents who wish to donate time or money to help improve county parks. The logo was selected by a community panel from approximately 20 local submissions.
Visalia videographer Travis Walters said he wanted his logo to be modern, but not distracting. The logo incorporates the outdoor icons of Tulare County, from the giant sequoias that tower over Balch Park to the Valley Oaks that populate Mooney Grove.
“I definitely think of redwoods when I think of Tulare County, and then I wanted something cute,” he said, pointing to a small park bench and a leaping dog.
How far does $8 million go?
Beyond the rebranding, what specifically will the public get from federal legislation that will provide Tulare County Parks with four times its annual budget?
The first priority is to repair and replace every gazebo and barbecue in the county’s 11 parks, Cendejas said. the system is also electrifying its vehicle fleet to reduce air and noise pollution.
Other major projects by park include:
- Alpaugh: Irrigation, Electric
- Balch: Paving
- Bartlett: New Well
- Cutler: Irrigation, Paving
- ledbetter: Improvements to sports fields
- Mooney: Renovate the bridge, replace the sidewalk around the pond
- Pixly: Replace the water distribution system, irrigation
Additional projects will be identified by park staff and proposed to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors later this year, Cendejas said.
“I encourage people to see that our parks are moving in the right direction following the many changes that have happened recently,” Tulare County Chairman Eddie Valero said. He moved this year’s county state address to Mooney Grove to highlight the investment and what he called one of the “most treasured places” in Tulare County.
But getting to these treasured places can be a challenge, depending on the neighborhood you live in.
Tulare County is the state’s most park-poor county, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, which means its residents struggle to access outdoor amenities. Only 12% of county residents live within half a mile of a park or public elementary school, a factor linked to higher rates of certain illnesses as well as poverty, the state said. agency.
Access to the park is a valley-wide issue, with many central California counties struggling to provide the same level of access as wealthier cities in the Bay Area and southern California. California.
Late last year, the state of California provided nearly $25 million in Proposition 68 funds to build new parks in Visalia, Porterville and Woodlake. The funding is intended to help bridge that disparity, state officials said in their announcement.
Cendejas said that while the county has no plans to build new parks, residents will notice the investment the county is making in its existing parks.
Critics, however, said it was not the first time the county had made such a promise. Mary Bryant leads the nonprofit The Real Mooney Grove Project, Inc. and alleges the county squandered past grant money, leaving the public with poorly maintained grounds as projects become bogged down in bureaucracy useless.
“Parks are at the bottom of the county’s priorities,” she said. “The county needs to start spending money on its parks and be better stewards of our lands.”
Mooney Grove disc golfers on Friday applauded the county’s investment in the park system that Josh Fleming said he uses several times a week.
“I love this park the way it is, but I’ve read reviews online that were critical of little things like trees that weren’t pruned or the grounds were in poor condition. After they pointed it out , I’ve started noticing that too,” said the Tularian and annual park pass holder. “These projects will help increase the reputation of the parks and attract more people to enjoy them.”
The avid disc golfer said he hopes the county will bring food trucks and other vendors to the large park, including the paddle boats that splashed in the pond when he was young.
“I miss those,” he said.
Joshua Yeager is a journalist with the Visalia Times-Delta and a member of the Report for America corps. It covers the news deserts of Tulare County with a focus on the environment and local government.