CERES -- Call their effect zen-like, refer to them as a place to burn off energy, or go there to walk the family pup. Whatever their use, parks enhance a community.
Ceres is adding two of those parks to its roster Saturday -- Neel Park and Sam Ryno Park will open to the community with ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Activities are open to the public.
It's been 13 years since the city has opened neighborhood parks. While Neel and Sam Ryno parks are bare with just grass, trees, lighting and walkways, they'll expand in a few years with playgrounds, tables and more.
"Their biggest advantage is they bring neighborhoods together," said Doug Lemcke, head of parks, recreation and facilities for the city. "People can play with their kids; families can go for a picnic or recreational activities. It helps them meet their neighbors, helps create a community."
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Neel Park will be introduced at 10 a.m., with Sam Ryno Park opening at 2 p.m. Both are the result of planning sessions with community members and naming contests, Lemcke said.
Named after longtime resident Marie Neel, the park is at Boothe and Helen Perry roads in northeast Ceres. Neel was a church, school and community volunteer who used to live and farm on the park's property. She died in 1999 at the age of 94. She sold it to the city after a fire damaged her house, according to close friend Mildred Krause.
"Marie was quiet, unassuming and humble. She wouldn't want all the fuss," Krause said. "... But she'd say thank you for doing so."
At seven acres, Neel Park will eventually have tennis courts, a softball field and backstop, playground, shade structure and picnic tables, Lemcke said. The park butts up to Sam Vaughn Elementary School and is surrounded by houses in Eastgate neighborhoods.
Sam Ryno Park
The five-acre landscape is dedicated to Ceres Police Sgt. Sam Ryno, who retired in 2006 after being shot by a renegade Marine in January 2005. Sgt. Howard Stevenson died in that shootout; a sanctuary in Ceres River Bluff Regional Park was dedicated to him.
Retired officer Ron Richter spearheaded the park's naming. The park includes a plaque recognizing its namesake.
"I felt that Sam also deserved a naming -- he gave up his career because of the injuries he received," said Richter, who worked with Ryno. "It's important to recognize his sacrifice. The plaque lets people know how he is."
Ryno is expected to speak at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Soon, Sam Ryno Park will include playgrounds, a water spray feature, shaded areas, a basketball half-court, picnic tables, barbecue grills and horseshoe pits.
The park is nestled among Brown Estate houses at Brown Avenue and Stone Springs Drive on the city's southwest side.
Both parks feature steep depressions that also serve as water retention basins when streets flood.
Completed work on Neel and Sam Ryno parks has come in at $785,000; future work will total about $1.5 million, Lemcke said. The majority of funding comes from neighborhood park fees, with a little boost from redevelopment money, he said.
Ceres will have 11 neighborhood parks, Smyrna Community Park, and the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. Next on the list is building Lions Park and finishing Ceres River Bluff Park.
"We're just trying to increase the quality of life in Ceres," Lemcke said.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.