A city project that officials say will better manage storm water, bring the city into compliance with the state, and eliminate street flooding during the rainy season around Roosevelt Park is striking out among people who live by and use the popular park in central Modesto.
City officials say the project includes removing about 10 trees and the walking path in about half of the park on its western side along Bronson Avenue to put in an underground basin that will hold the storm water, which eventually will seep into the aquifer and help replenish the groundwater.
Some are crying foul over the loss of the trees and what the city has proposed to put on top of the underground basin: two youth baseball fields.
The fields would have their backstops and diamonds at Bronson Avenue and Pearl Street, and Bronson and Orangeburg avenues. Modesto would plant trees elsewhere in the park to make up for those it removes. Officials said trees cannot be planted over the basin.
Helen Martin, 92, said she has lived a half block from the park for 53 years and uses it daily. Martin said she is upset because the ball fields would bring lots of cars and traffic and change the character of a very popular park.
“Many, many people use this park,” Martin said as she strolled along the walking path Friday with a friend. She said the park draws lots of families, people who come to walk their dogs, and is packed on Sundays. “I’m irate,” she said.
Martin added she does not believe the project is needed because she is not aware of the streets flooding, though someone else who lives near the park said some streets can flood during heavy downpours.
Acting Utilities Director Will Wong said Modesto is aware of and appreciates the concerns of those who live by and use the park. He said the project is a cost effective and efficient way to handle storm water.
He said the city has made no decision on how it will remake the part of the park that will be used for the project and will gather more input from the community in making that decision.
Modesto held a meeting Aug. 31 at Roosevelt Junior High School to solicit public input and is in the process of sending out a survey and notices for a second community meeting, which could be held in mid-October.
Modesto sent out about 800 notices to residences around the park for the first meeting, but Martin said she did not receive one.
City officials said about a half dozen people attended the meeting and most objected to the ball fields, saying they would draw traffic and trash. Officials said that is a typical turnout for these types of meetings.
Officials said a state grant will pay for the $5 million project. Work could start early next year and take about six months, but the start date is contingent upon the city coming up with a plan for the park that has community support.
The project includes other storm-water improvements, including catch basins that will collect the storm water and underground pipes, in which the water will flow into the underground basin.
The storm water now flows into the city’s sewer system through what are called cross connections, but Wong said the state wants Modesto to stop doing that. He said the project will do a better job of disposing of storm water than the cross connections.
City officials say the storm water will be filtered to remove solids, oil and grease before reaching the aquifer. “A big benefit is it is recharging local groundwater,” said associate engineer and project manager David Felix.
Modesto made the same kind of storm-water improvements at Garrison Park a couple of years ago at a cost of $3 million. A state grant paid for that work, too. The city also wants to do projects at Pike and Everett parks but needs to secure the funding.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316