Effort aims to restore what Modesto’s East La Loma Park has been missing

East La Loma Park has something for people of almost any age. Tennis, basketball and volleyball courts. A disc golf course. A gazebo with picnic tables. Lots of grassy areas. The Dry Creek Trail for walking, running and biking.

But families with wee ones will notice one big absence: a playground. The La Loma Neighborhood Association is working with the city to change that.

The park, southeast of El Vista Avenue and Scenic Drive, has been without a playground for about two years. The old equipment was removed because of age and safety issues, said Deborah Steinberg, president of the neighborhood association.

With so much time gone by and no replacement playground, “we approached the city and asked, ‘What’s up?’ ” Steinberg said, sitting earlier this month in the pavilion at the park. The answer, she said, was that the city didn’t have the funds to build a new playground. But the city did enter the playground into its Park Partners Program, which means the government is providing assistance in organization and management to complete the project.

The neighborhood association also sought corporate and individual partnerships to raise money and in-kind donations. A contractor who lives in the La Loma neighborhood, for instance, is donating tens of thousands of dollars in earthwork and grading, as well as installation of play area curbs, a wheelchair ramp and concrete pavement.

The city had in mind, but couldn’t fund, a playground much bigger than the three pieces now planned, Steinberg said. “We weren’t going to be able to come up with the money that they wanted for the playground they wanted.” So the neighborhood association urged reconsideration on size, she said.

“I wanted to see a playground sooner than later, even if it’s smaller, because kids have fun even if it’s not a grand playground,” Steinberg said. “So they scaled down their plans but we left wiggle room so if we’re able to raise more money than our minimum, it would go into more play equipment.”

The three pieces currently planned are a swing set and two structures that combine climbing and sliding elements.

The new playground will be built into a lawn area adjacent to the picnic pavilion in the park. It’s being moved from its original location farther east, Steinberg said, for public-safety reasons. The city wants it near the parking loop so that police officers in patrol cars can see it easily.

Steinberg hopes the greater Modesto community will get behind the playground project. “This is a big regional park and there are lots and lots of families that come here every weekend and even on weekdays,” she said.

Much of Modesto is low income, she said, and East La Loma Park, in the southeast of the city, is close to many areas that have little in the way of recreational opportunities.

A gala fundraiser — called “Party for the Park, Hollywood Style” — will be held June 29 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz of Modesto, on McHenry Avenue. It will include food, drink, music and a photo booth, and tickets are $60. “Come dress in style and walk the red carpet with us,” organizers say on the event site Brown Paper Tickets.

Fundraising for the park has been inching toward its goal, Steinberg said. “If we have all our funds together, which I believe we will have after our gala, we hope to have the playground at least started by fall.”

When installation begins, organizers will welcome volunteer labor, she said. In the meantime, donations are sought, which can be made at gofundme.com and paypal.com. On PayPal, click on “send,” and submit payment to admin@lalomaneighborhood.org.

Tickets for Party for the Park may be purchased at https://PlaygroundGala.brownpapertickets.com, or on mobile devices at https://playgroundgala.bpt.me.

Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.