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First phase of big improvements to Enslen Park underway in Modesto

Work has begun on the first phase of the plaza and playground project at Enslen Park, in front of the Boy Scout Clubhouse on the Enslen Avenue side of the park. It will include a concrete plaza with a couple of picnic tables, as well as initial pieces of a playground designed for kids ages 5 to 12.
Work has begun on the first phase of the plaza and playground project at Enslen Park, in front of the Boy Scout Clubhouse on the Enslen Avenue side of the park. It will include a concrete plaza with a couple of picnic tables, as well as initial pieces of a playground designed for kids ages 5 to 12. jfarrow@modbee.com

Work has begun to add a concrete plaza and a small playground to Enslen Park near downtown Modesto. Those features are part of the first phase of a project that eventually will see improvements to the Boy Scout Clubhouse, which sits adjacent to the planned plaza, as well as bocce ball courts, fencing and more.

In addition to the roughly 3,000-square-foot plaza, which will include a couple of built-in tables, and the playground designed for kids ages 5 to 12, phase one of the Enslen Plaza & Playground Project includes tree plantings, increased lighting, ADA accessibility from Park Avenue and the removal of the horseshoe pits from the park.

That last item doesn’t sound like an improvement, and some of the regular users said they were surprised and upset when they showed up at the park early this week to find the pits already torn out.

“These guys took care of those pits like they’re in their own backyards, and all of a sudden they’re gone,” said Ralph Carpenter.

There were at least eight horseshoe pits, and about 10 people who regularly used them, said Mike Taylor, one of the players. The good news is that phase two of the Enslen project will bring back four pits, said Nathan Houx, Modesto’s parks planning and development manager.

Those four easily should meet the demand, Taylor said. In the meantime — because there’s no funding or time line yet beyond phase one of the Enslen project — some of his fellow horseshoe throwers are using pits at Beyer Community Park and Roosevelt Park, he said.

“I just hope it won’t be put off and put off and put off,” Taylor said of the second phase at Enslen.

The park project is being led by the city and the College Area Neighborhood Alliance, which is part of the Modesto Neighborhoods Inc. nonprofit organization. Initial funding came from the annual Gala in Graceada event. About $45,000 in ticket sales went toward it and launching the Sundays in Graceada activities program, Gala in Graceada Chairwoman Julie Scherer said in a news release.

Phase one of the Enslen work gained “major momentum” with funding from Boyett Petroleum and Valero, said Scherer, who’s also a CANA steering member. The project is being led by Simile Construction. Collins Electric, the Beard Foundation, Stuart McClanahan Construction and the city’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department also are contributing.

“The large vision is for us to transform this area of the park to a modern, family-friendly indoor/outdoor venue space,” Scherer said in the news release.

Speaking about phase one, Houx said the concrete plaza is being poured in front of the Boy Scout Clubhouse to create that indoor-outdoor venue. Only a couple of fixed picnic tables will be within the concrete area, in order to keep it as versatile as possible. There will be no covering over the plaza, but shade trees are being planted.

A future phase may include an open structure with a trellis just south of the plaza, suitable for weddings, with audience seating on the concrete, Houx said.

A phase after that would include renovating the Scout Clubhouse, he said. “I don’t know exactly what we’ll end up doing — probably open it up a little more, maybe take out the dropped ceiling, make it more airy and open,” Houx said.

The clubhouse likely will be repainted, perhaps get new flooring and see its kitchen improved.

“It’s one of our smaller facilities,” Houx said. “It’s a small kitchen, not a full commercial one but a catering kitchen, which we’ll probably keep. The bathrooms are small and probably will need expansion to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act requirements).

“Some other things we’re looking at include the front of the building — how do we open that up a bit to be an indoor-outdoor space? Maybe we turn some windows into doors, whether roll-up or another type.”

With a large playground at nearby Graceada Park, Houx said, the aim was for something different at Enslen. Graceada’s play structures have a lot of decks, which are expensive, he said. Enslen’s equipment will be more about rope netting and other ways of climbing. The initial equipment will include a couple of slides, too, and more play pieces will be added in later phases, Houx said.

A later phase also will include spinning and swinging elements and a small structure designed for 2- to 5-year-olds, he said.

For information on how to donate, email galaingraceada@gmail.com. To stay up to date on the project’s progress, visit www.facebook.com/modestocana and www.facebook.com/galaingraceada.

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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.
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