Giving way at Crane: Old to new

TURLOCK -- Swing sets, slides, ramps, climbing bars, resurfaced tennis courts, new horseshoe pits, sidewalks, a restroom, benches, barrels and barbecue pits. Crane Park, one of the oldest neighborhood parks in town, is getting a makeover.

City crews have pulled antiquated metal playground equipment out of its concrete roots. In coming weeks, modern plastic play goods will be planted.

Crane Park is the last of Turlock's parks to undergo modernization. The play equipment has long since been out of state compliance, and the tennis courts and horseshoe pits have aged noticeably.

"Basically we're bringing everything up to state and (disabled) requirements," said Municipal Services Director Dan Madden.

With its large shade trees and old Turlock feel, 7.3-acre Crane Park is one of the most used in the city, said Parks and Recreation Supervisor Rick Harden. Tables and barbecue pits are rented through the fall, and it takes city workers at least two daily garbage trips on the weekend to keep the bins from overflowing.

"The new equipment is going to be red, white and blue," Harden said, "because we feel Crane Park is your typical American park."

As bulldozers worked in the background, Dylan Choate, 4, ran up the steps of the last jungle gym and slid down the spiral slide. Harden grabbed the rail near the top of the slide, five feet off the ground.

"This," he said, "is a good example of a code issue."

Spaced five inches apart, the vertical rails atop the slide are just wide enough for a 2-year-old to squeeze through and get his head stuck. State law says these railings can be only three inches apart.

Dylan didn't seem to notice the hazard as he bounced over to a giant metal worm with a wavy, monkey-bar spine. Harden is going to save the playground classics, such as the worm, and set up an antique play yard at the city's waste-water treatment center. When schoolchildren tour the center, they'll get a chance to see how Mom and Dad played back in the day.

Crane's old merry-go-round, a wood-benched octagon, is being restored. Once it's immobilized, it will return to the park to sit behind a small fence with a monument plaque.

"Now a merry-go-round can't go faster than 13 feet per second," Harden said.

State grant money from Propositions 12 and 40 is paying for the improvements, along with $100,000 in park fee money from new home development. All told, the makeover should cost a little less than $400,000.

Dylan's stepmom, Nahrain Benner, told the boy he was the last to play on the old gear. Dylan didn't seem that concerned. He ran up the steps for another twist down the slide.

"Playing till the end," Benner said. "Playing till the end."

Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at mshea@modbee.com or 578-2391.