Marijke Rowland

May 10, 2013

TURLOCK NOW: Turlock doesn't want to play ball

Proposed plans for a Rotary-donated bocce ball court in a Turlock park were dropped from lack of public support.

No bocce for you, Turlock. Plans for Rotary Club of Turlock- donated bocce ball courts in a Turlock park have been tabled because of lack of public support. After more than a year of discussion and planning, Rotary members have withdrawn their project from future Turlock Parks, Recreation and Community Commission agendas.

Hopes of installing two side-by-side, 65-by-10-foot bocce ball courts were dashed after community members protested the added traffic and use they could attract to whatever park they occupied. Somehow, the slow-paced sport, which is like a primitive cross between bowling and lawn darts, became controversial. It attracted crowds to commission meetings to argue against putting the courts in proposed city parks.

The first proposed location, Crane Park, was eliminated after neighbors said the park was overused. That site was dropped and signs were erected by Rotary members in two other proposed sites — Bristol Park and Dale Pinkney Park — alerting neighbors to the possible project and asking for input on the plans.

Rotary member and past President Mike Dini said that in Dale Pinkney Park, one of the signs was vandalized with a clear message. It read, "We don't want it," across the sign. But then another resident added, "Respect the process and don't vandalize."

So how did bocce ball, an ancient Roman sport today most associated with stooped old men lazily passing the time in parks, become such a hot topic in Turlock?

Dini sure doesn't know.

"I never expected this type of opposition. One of the neat things for this project is it provides an activity for people who are disabled. People of all ages and abilities can take part in it. I don't think there is anything controversial about it," he said.

It seems a lot of the arguments boiled down to, "Sure, bocce seems nice, but I don't want it in my park." Concern about vehicle congestion and added foot traffic — you know, the audacity of more people using public, taxpayer-supported parks — seemed to be the biggest driver of complaints.

Dini said that out of respect to the community, the club — which was going to construct, install and maintain the courts on its own without any cost to taxpayers — has dropped all its plans for now. The Rotary, he said, wouldn't force bocce on Turlock if Turlock didn't want bocce.

A post on the Rotary's bocce court's Facebook page explains the decision.

Dini said the project could return, if there were enough public support asking for the courts instead. But for now, it seems Turlock simply doesn't want to play ball. ...

Attendance was light at the second Turlock City Council Community Forum on Thursday to discuss a possible road tax and other issues.

About a dozen people attended the event at Westside Ministries, similar to the number of people at the first event. Public comment ranged more broadly, touching on police and fire issues, as well as ways to raise the additional $8 million needed each year to maintain the city's roads.

A possible half-cent sales tax or parcel tax has been bandied about as a way to fill the gap.

City Council members and residents alike practically begged for more people to weigh in on the issue, which Mayor John Lazar has made one of his priorities this year.

Longtime Turlock resident and Realtor Bob Endsley attended with his wife, Jeanne.

"My question would be: How could this type of meeting be done with many more people here to listen to it?" he asked. "Just hearing what all the staff has said and explaining the functions and knowing the quality of the City Council, (the information) needs to get out to much more of our public. We need to have the people here in the community come."

Two more forums are left. They will be at 6 p.m. May 30 at the Senior Citizens Center and 7 p.m. June 13 at Pitman High School. ...

You know a trend has gone national when the first lady of the United States joins in.

Wednesday, the official White House Tumblr posted a photo of Michelle Obama and San Francisco 49ers quarterback and Turlock favorite son Colin Kaepernick doing his trademark bicep kiss. Kaepernick has been part of the first lady's "Let's Move: Active Schools" campaign to fight childhood obesity.

Last Tuesday, Kaepernick posted his own photo of himself posing with the first lady on his Instagram account, where he raved about meeting "one of the greatest women in the world."

Seems the admiration was mutual. ...

And finally, David Sedaris didn't know what he was going to write in his daily journal about Turlock yet. But rest assured, the city should show up there.

The best-selling author and internationally renowned humorist came to Turlock Community Theatre last Tuesday night to spin stories, read from his books and share a little out of his daily journal in front of a packed auditorium. He has been keeping his journal since 1977 and figures he has only missed maybe 20 days in all those years. After the show, I doubt Turlock will be day 21.

Known for books including "Me Talk Pretty One Day," "Holiday on Ice" and "When You are Engulfed in Flames," Sedaris read excerpts from his work, as well as his newest book, "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls," released in April.

His stories ranged from the challenges of learning a foreign language via the Pimsleur Language Programs (bonus: We all know how to say "I am a middle-age homosexual" in Japanese now) to the blissed-out joy of being on Propofol while getting his first colonoscopy (it's the drug Michael Jackson fatally OD'd on — "and who can blame him") and a skillful ability to turn observations about abortion-opposing billboards into a joke about how obsolete checks have become (you had to be there — it worked).

Sedaris signed books before his show and stayed well past 11 p.m. to keep autographing after his show, as well. He took time to talk with each person, including me, and stayed true to his quirky style with his inscriptions. Mine was both funny and — in his own way — gracious. It reads: "To Marijke. Thank you for making me rich. David Sedaris."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on

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