By VINCE REMBULAT
The late Huell Howser once marveled at Victory Park.
That was during his 2007 visit to Stockton as part of his “California Gold” one-hour series on public television.
Howser, who died over four years ago, was wowed by the park conveniently located in the middle of town.
Location, access and the abundance of shade trees – the latter matters quite a bit in the Central Valley during those sweltering hot days – makes Victory Park a popular place for friends and families to enjoy a nice day with a picnic while allowing the youngsters to run around in the playground.
Victory Park is at 1001 N. Pershing Ave., an easy access considering that Interstate 5 has a Pershing Avenue exit that leads you directly by the park.
Many who grew here can remember the playground equipment. Included was the one that resembled a rocket ship but with spiral steps inside that led to the top of the capsule and a steel slide on the side.
Our family outings back then consisted of a bucket of chicken from KFC with all the sides. On occasions, we would bring our not-so-discipline dogs to the park – they’d occasionally run loose, leaving us to chase them down.
One of my fond memories was the pond in front of the Haggin Museum. We learned that you could catch crawdads with liver as bait using a hook, line and sinker.
Of course, we often enjoyed just feeding the ducks. That, too, became a tradition as our own kids did likewise when they were young.
The ducks and geese are still there although I no longer see youngsters fishing for crawdads in the pond. The playground has also changed, with newer, safer equipment.
Victory Park also has tennis courts, baseball diamonds, a swimming pool and basketball court. Runners and walkers still circle the park while free yoga classes on Saturday mornings continues to gain in popularity.
Fritz Grupe Park
This north Stockton park at 5974 Fritz Grupe Park has great playgrounds for children and adults.
Thanks to cross-training fitness, grownups have their own equipment to use as their workout stations at this park while their youngster is out playing on the variety of monkey bars here.
Grupe Park may not be as accessible as some of the other parks in town – to get there, take the Benjamin Holt Drive exit off Interstate 5 and travel west, turning left on Grigsby Place to West Swain Road, going a few blocks west again to Halleck Place, which leads you directly to the north end of the park – but folks often enjoy the vast open spaces and the lush green grass.
Grupe Park is also where you see plenty of familiar faces not to mention those of friends and family.
They can often be seen coming together for a picnic or hanging out come this time of year.
Oak Grove Regional Park
Located at 4520 W. Eight Mile Road, Oak Grove was once the home of the Stockton Asparagus Festival.
In the middle of it is a 10-acre lake stocked with seasonal catfish and trout. This is where folks often bring their youngsters to feed the ducks and geese.
Oak Grove Lake is also where you can rent paddleboats or aqua cycles, from April to October.
For the disc golf enthusiast, Oak Grove features an 18-hole course.
Families enjoy coming here even with the entrance fee ($5 per vehicle weekdays, $6 weekends and holidays, and $10 on special events such as Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day).
From Interstate 5, Oak Grove is easily accessible by taking the West Eight Mile Road exit and traveling east for about half mile.
The park, in addition, has picnic tables, barbecue grills, horseshoe pits, a children’s playground, and a nature center and hiking trails.
Micke Grove Regional Park
This 132-acre park at 11793 N. Micke Grove Road in Lodi is still one of most popular attractions in San Joaquin County.
And for good reason.
It has more to offer than any park in the area.
For starters, Wortley Lake is a three-acre man-made lake accentuated by a 40-foot water fountain.
The tranquil Japanese Garden features cherry blossom trees along with a tea house and a koi pond.
This place is home to the San Joaquin County Historical Museum, Micke Grove Zoo and Fun Town.
Micke Grove also has rental facilities with outdoor picnic shelters and indoor facilities for receptions.
In addition, the park has water features to cool off the kids on those hot days, an 18-hole disc golf courts, picnic tables and barbecue grills.
From Highway 99, take the west Armstrong Road exit and follow the signs.
The entrance fee is same as that of Oak Grove Regional Park.
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.