As a new feature to celebrate the impact they have locally, The Riverbank News will be covering several groups in the community that provide a service or lend a helping hand. Periodically, The News will feature a club or group that is making a difference and starting this new segment will be the Friends of Jacob Myers Park.
The Friends originated in 2000 and Scott McRitchie was the President at that time and continued to be for the next 10 years. The club formed due to concerns about the park raised by former City Manager Rich Holmer. The park was rundown so he gathered approximately 50 people of all ages, from little kids to older citizens, to walk through the park and analyze what needed to be done. After the walk, they formed three priorities: things they could accomplish quickly and at a reasonable cost, things that would take a little bit longer, and the things that were long range plans.
They found several problems with the park like the restrooms were in disarray, the playground equipment was broken, and some ‘undesirables’ had the run of the park leaving a variety of drug paraphernalia scattered around, including used needles.
The group came to the conclusion that they would need grants to do some of the improvements; therefore they would need to become a non-profit organization, 501c3.
McRitchie and Sue Fitzpartrick, Director of Parks and Recreation, collaborated to fill out all necessary forms to make that happen and then proceeded to write the grants.
The first grant that was received was for $400,000 provided by the State Department of Boating and Waterways. The money was used to fix the boat ramp so that the emergency vessels would have a launching point between Oakdale and Escalon on the river.
The funds were also used to pave the parking lot, the restrooms were torn down and new restrooms were built, and light fixtures were installed.
The second grant they received was for the broken down playground equipment and that was provided by the county. In August of 2001, approximately 100 members of the community arrived at the park to assist in building the new playground.
“So it was really neat that the city did their thing and helped us drilling the post holes and the other people did the rest of it,” said McRitchie. “So it all now conforms to the state specifications where before it didn’t.”
The rocket that is located next to the restrooms and by the playground was an original piece placed in the park that had a slide in it. The kids would walk up the stairs to the top and then slide down. The rocket started wearing down so kids would get in it and start rocking it. People were concerned that it would fall over. So the rocket was closed down.
Nat Garcia, a former Friends of Jacob Myers Park member, decided to take it back to his business and replaced all the nuts and bolts and repainted it. The refurbished rocket was later placed back in the park and dedicated to Garcia.
The group continued to the back of the park and the first walking trail was created as well as the Bicentennial Grove was refurbished. The fencing that was around the grove was breaking down so different scout projects have repaired it. The Caruthers family and part of an Eagle Scout project replaced the entire fence and placed the plaques in front of each tree.
There are 13 trees in the grove that represent the original 13 colonies and one tree for the State of California.
The group has also put in a campground in the back of the park and has completed a trail.
This past year Boy Scout Jeffery von Essen finished his eagle project by completing the construction of the gazebo near the trail at the park.
There are some new plans for the park like a fishing access point, development of an archery area, and possibly an outdoor theater.
Current Friends President, Marilyn Zinner, has had the position for the past four years and has expressed that they are looking for new members to join their cause.
“We need people to get involved,” said Zinner. “This is a family oriented park and people with children want to keep it that way so getting involved is just important.
“A lot of families depend on the safety of the park and its cleanliness.”
The park has been host to several events, like Beyond Earth Day, the Haunted Hayride, and free movies in the park.
In the near future it will host River Fest, which will be a combination of Beyond Earth Day and new activities.
“The river is the air conditioning of Riverbank,” stated Zinner.
The group meets every fourth Thursday of every month at the park, weather permitting and meetings are limited to an hour.
Everyone is sent notices regarding the meetings and reminders by Zinner. There is no age requirement. Members of the community and people that enjoy Jacob Myers Park are encouraged to apply.
For more information or to apply call Marilyn Zinner at 209-581-8876.
The City of Riverbank and the Friends of Jacob Myers Park were partners in all aspects of the parks renovation and McRitchie and Zinner provided the information included in the article.