TURLOCK -- An effort to bring a game that dates back centuries to an area park has run into some opposition over decidedly modern-day concerns.
Members of the Rotary Club of Turlock pitched the idea to bring two bocce ball courts to Crane Park. "We wanted to take on a meaningful physical project," club member Mike Dini said. Bocce appealed because it's a low-impact activity in which just about anybody of any age or ability can participate.
In bocce, someone throws out a first ball, called a pallino, then players compete to get their bocce balls as close as possible to it. The game long has been popular in Italy and France and is gaining fans in the United States.
As far as a location, Crane Park seemed ideal because it's centrally located across from Turlock High School which is important because the Rotary-sponsored Interact Clubs of Turlock and Pitman high schools plan to help with construction of the courts and handle maintenance once they're built.
But the plan didn't go over so well with some neighbors, particularly those who live along Yosemite Street on the park's north side.
Complaints range widely
Fred Bigler told the City Council last week that the concept of a bocce ball court is "a good one. However, the idea of locating them at Crane Park is ill-conceived."
Bigler said there already are parking problems in the area and he often finds his driveway used by people visiting the park.
"It's packed constantly," Bigler said. And the courts would take up 600 to 1,300 square feet of grassy area that's used for picnicking, parties and bounce houses on weekends.
Bigler and about a dozen other residents attended a public hearing held at the park last week. Many of them cited more general concerns about Crane Park, including people using it after hours, drinking in the park which is illegal and slow response times from police when they call to complain. Those issues would seem to have little to do with the specific proposal before the Parks and Recreation Commission; bocce players generally aren't known as a hard-partying, late-night bunch.
"It was a great opportunity for the city staff to hear many of the complaints unrelated to the bocce ball facility," commission Chairman Barney Gordon said Monday. "We're certainly going to take those as action items and look at what we're going to do to address some of those additional complaints."
As far as the bocce courts, the item was tabled; commissioners asked staff and Rotarians to look into all the options, which still could include Crane Park. Some neighbors suggested the courts would be a better fit at Donnelly Park, which, like Crane, is considered a "community park" but is much larger.
Dini said the Rotary Club isn't against Donnelly Park, but there's a separate proposal to install a disc golf course there.
"And we liked the shade trees at Crane," Dini said, adding that bocce would be a good addition to the activities available there, including horseshoe pits, tennis courts and a children's play area.
'It looked like fun'
Gloria Nielsen agreed. Nielsen, who lives in Ceres, regularly comes to Turlock and makes it a habit to walk laps around Crane Park, as she was doing Monday. She said she has seen bocce ball courts in other areas.
"I hope they get it," she said. "It looked like fun and something anyone can do."
Amanda Friel lives down the street from Crane and grew up coming to the park. Although Crane often can be packed "today's a mellow, mellow day," she said Monday she thinks if there's enough support, a bocce court there could be a good fit.
Dini said his club is open to the idea of other locations, including Curt Andre Park, which was suggested at last week's hearing. That's across town and close to Pitman High, which would offer proximity for Interact club members who would maintain it.
"We did not want to rush to a decision," he said. "We will find the right home for this wonderful project."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343.