Los Banos Talk
On February 3, 2021 the Los Banos City council voted unanimously to proceed forward with the new Parks Master Plan and Urban Tree Canopy Plan. During the Council meeting, the City Parks & Recreation Director Joe Heim expressed that he was very pleased with both plans and that both were truly needed. Heim mentioned that there was no official City Urban Tree plan prior to this, and that the Parks Master Plan hadn't been revised since 1998. Despite this Los Banos when compared to other cities of a similar size like Hollister, Los Banos actually is well parked with a current ratio of 6.3 acres of parks and trails per 1,000 residents. The plan recommends that the City keep this standard and projects that the City would need to add approximately 6.5 acres per year of new park in order to maintain the ratio with population growth. The continuation of requiring home developers to creat parks, the development of the vacant area of the Ag Sports Complex, creation of a new regional park facility, and new trails was presented as being sufficient to meet these goals through 2035.
The plan takes into account public surveys that were conducted recently and public hearings regarding the parks. Some of the plan admittedly reads as a wishlist because unfortunately what the public wants and what is feasible are often two different things, with this being no exception. The survey showed that over 75% of participants want an aquatic center with a competition pool and diving board, splash pad, and shallow kiddie pool for low entry and lessons. Section 9 of the master plan outlines the action plan and lists the priorities. Neither the Downtown Aquatic Center nor the Regional Park are listed as priorities because the funding, land, permits, etc. would still need to be obtained, which could take a considerable amount of time. The Downtown Aquatic Center is estimated to cost between 12-20 Million dollars not iincluding staffing, maintenance, or other costs. Conversely the Regional Sports Complex is being estimated to cost between $200,000-$250,000 per acre.
The following parks were determined to be high priority for renovation and repair
7th Street Ballpark
Ag Sports Complex
Big Page Park
City Park on Ninth Street
Citrus Terrace I Park
Little Page Park
Regency Lot D Park
Skylark Park and Expansion
Vineyard Basin C Park
The plan focuses on numerous things, but two that caught Councilwoman & Mayor Pro Temp. Debra Lewis's eye were the amount of focus and attention given to Pickle ball and a skate park. Currently there exists two active communities of Pickle ball players and skateboarders who have been very vocal recently about the lack of tennis/pickle ball courts and lack of a skate park. These individuals have been very passionate and were strongly encouraged to attend the public hearings regarding the parks master plan, which had the consequence of creating bias in the surveys and hearings and making it appear as if the vast majority of the population wants a skatepark and pickle ball courts. This however seemed to concern Lewis because she feels as though more common sports such as soccer, baseball, football, and basketball would serve more people's interests and bring in more revenue via hosting tournaments. She said that while she has heard from the Pickle ball community that the City could earn significant revenue from hosting pickle ball tournaments, she said that she wants to see someone from that community present some data and evidence to support the claim.
Mayor Tom Faria said during the meeting that he wanted to see splash pads and eventually the aquatic center. Lewis also seemed to support the aquatic center but phrased it in such a way as to suggest it is a distant pipe dream still at this point. The plan does not appear to be entirely rigid or binding, but generally lays out a list of priorities and vision for the city's parks. In the immediate we can expect to see new trees planted, repairs made, and long over due maintenance addressed. Those wishing to see a pool should not hold their breath, because it will be years and years before it comes to fruition, if it comes to fruition.
I reached out to the City Parks and Recreation Director Joe Heim via email, and he seemed willing and eager to come on Los Banos Talk and discuss this further. You can watch the City Hall meeting on YouTube here using the following link: https://youtu.be/EXJHLJ7u9ek?t=3089
You can also read the City's Master Park Plan on the City website by using the following link:
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