‘Best early Christmas gift.’ Fresno gets $15 million grant for park construction, upgrades

·5 min read
City of Fresno

Fresno’s Radio Park will see some major upgrades, and a new park will be built west of Highway 99, thanks to $15 million in grant funding from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

About $6 million will be used to upgrade Radio Park, located at First Street and Clinton Avenue near the Fresno Art Museum. The improvements include a splash park, small stage, and new public art sculptures. The restrooms will be upgraded, and showers will be added.

A new $8.5 million park will be built at Dakota and Milburn avenues and will include two multi-use fields, two multipurpose courts, an exercise area, shaded play areas, a skate park, a mural wall, and more.

The money was made available to the city of Fresno through Proposition 68, a parks and water bond passed by voters in 2018. This year, California State Parks announced the nearly $550 million in grant funding awarded to more than 100 communities.

Fresno City Councilmember Nelson Esparza, who represents east-central Fresno’s District 7, said the grant money was a long time coming and will benefit the neighborhood for decades to come.

“This project will play a key role in our aggressive efforts to rebuild Fresno and invest in neighborhoods that have been left behind,” Esparza said. “I really can’t tell you just how thrilled I am. Today was a great day for city of Fresno parks.”

City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, who represents west of Highway 99, said the new park was 30 years in the making when the city of Fresno promised residents a four-acre park. For years, other parks were built, but the Dakota and Milburn park was forgotten, prompting residents to speak up.

“I heard it loud and clear when I was running for office — eight years ago now — that they expected us to build that park,” she said. “So I did make a commitment. I said if you elect me to office, I’m going to work hard to make this a reality and fulfill that promise that for decades was told to these residents.”

Over the course of the pandemic, hundreds of residents participated through Zoom meetings and drive-thru events to express their vision for the park, Soria said. Those efforts likely made an impression on the state, she said.

“That’s what I am proud of because, really, I think this is happening because the community wanted it to happen,” Soria said. “It’s like the best news ever — the best early Christmas gift.”

Sandra Celedon, President and CEO of Fresno Building Healthy Communities, gave the city kudos for securing the grant. She said it’s a great example of how to leverage money from Measure P, the city’s new parks sales tax, for additional investments. Fresno BHC for years has championed building park access in the city.

“We must continue to ensure that ALL existing parks like Radio Park, are fully renovated and brought up to health and safety standards, starting with those that need it most in south Fresno,” Celedon said. “This is a great opportunity to ensure that all Fresnans have access to quality parks in their neighborhoods while we create more regional outdoor assets like expanding access to the San Joaquin River.”

Other cities receive money

Other Fresno County communities also received funding in the latest round of allocations.

The city of Huron will use $4.6 million in grant funding to build the new La Placita Park, which will include an amphitheater, covered playground, three open space turf areas, exercise stations, kiosk/plaza with a monument, restroom with snack bar, three picnic areas, education displays, security cameras, and landscaping and lighting throughout the park.

The city of Kingsburg will renovate the existing Kingsburg Dog Park with $1.2 million. The renovation will include building a new play structure, an all-weather walking track, restroom with lighting, and three shade structures. The landscaping and lighting also will be renovated.

The city of Orange Cove will use $1.8 million to build the new Sequoia Community Park, which will include a baseball field, soccer field, grass volleyball court, playground, walking trail with exercise stations, parking lot, restroom, landscaping, and LED lighting.

In Tulare County, the city of Visalia received $7.8 million in funding for a new park, and the city of Woodlake received $8.4 million for a new park.

Other Fresno park updates

Also on Wednesday, the Maxie L. Parks Community Center in southwest Fresno reopened after a 15-month closure caused by the discovery the area was contaminated with toxic chemicals from an old dry cleaning business. Community members were angered not only by the closure of the community center but also with how long it took the city to notify residents.

The reopening on Wednesday was celebrated with a kids’ fun zone, arts and crafts, a resource fair, and COVID-19 vaccinations.

“I am happy to welcome our community back into the building,” said Councilmember Miguel Arias, who represents the area. “The stability of this community center is vital to the surrounding neighborhoods, offering both activities and programming for youth, job training, senior meals, and critical services including cooling and warming centers during harsh weather. We are eager to reconnect with residents to celebrate its reopening and highlight the renovations and work that have taken place in the last 15 months.”

Arias also is proposing to rename Hyde Park to a more accurate description, “Hyde Landfill,” during Thursday’s city council meeting.

The site at 319 W. Florence Ave. in south Fresno is a 16-acre former landfill adjacent to the Darling rendering plant and Foster Farms plant. Arias’ proposal calls for the city to continue maintaining the space, but it would be removed from the city’s green space acreage and would no longer be identified as a park in city planning documents.

“Referring to Hyde Park as a ‘park’ is a misnomer and a disservice to the community because it is not quality green space with park amenities,” Arias’ proposed resolution states.

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