ATWATER -- Though it's been enjoyed by residents for about four years, a park with no name at 1976 Vistana Court was officially given a title during a sunny ceremony Saturday.
The park was named after the Neves family, said Patrick Faretta, parks and community services director. Alfredo Neves was the city's fourth mayor. His son, Harry Neves, was the ninth mayor.
The Neves family has a long history in Atwater.
Alfredo Neves, along with Manuel Areaga, opened the Neves & Areaga Merchandise Store on Fourth Street and Broadway in 1913, according to a family history presented by Harriet Neves, Alfredo Neves' granddaughter. When the store opened, the area looked like a desert.
Other family members were involved in the schools, the Atwater Women's Club, Rotary Club and Merced Elks Lodge, according to Harriet, who requested the park be named after her father and grandfather.
Neves Park, which is on about 2.5 acres, doesn't have playground equipment, Faretta said. It's mostly open space.
However, there are plans to work with the Neves family to develop more amenities in the park, he said.
Mayor Joan Faul provided a park history and dedication during the ceremony. Others there included Councilman Jeff Rivero, Councilman Nelson Crabb, Assistant City Manager Stan Feathers, City Treasurer Jim Heller and former mayor Greg Olzack.
A park bench was also dedicated during the ceremony to Harriet Neves' sister, Christine, who died of ovarian cancer in 1987.
The park was built on what used to be farmland, Faul said. It was donated as part of an agreement between the city and a housing developer.
Saturday's event is the latest chapter in intricate traditions between the city and the Neves family, she said.
"There's a lot of history," Faul said. "Especially when we're recognizing two mayors of the city of Atwater, and that doesn't happen very often."
Feathers agreed that the Neves family has been instrumental in helping to shape Atwater.
"They're such a wonderful pioneer family," he said. "They've made lots of contributions to the city through the years."
With Saturday's dedication and a sign in the park that reads "Neves Family Memorial Park," that history won't be forgotten anytime soon.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.