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    Ron Shilliday, supervisor of facilities and maintenance for the Carmichael Recreation and Park District, cleans donor bricks at the new Jan Park, a 13.6-acre site with walking trails, a playground, picnic facilities and natural areas that officially opens Saturday in a neighborhood between Salmaan Drive and Jan Drive east of Manzanita Avenue in Carmichael.


    Joyce Carroll, left, chairwoman of the Jan Park Committee, talks Thursday with Harriett Orchard in the new park in Carmichael. Orchard was a generous donor to a fundraising campaign for the addition to her neighborhood.

Neighbors rally to make the most of new Carmichael park

Published: Friday, Sep. 16, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 18, 2011 - 2:29 pm

Not long ago, a stretch of land in the middle of a Carmichael neighborhood was largely inaccessible with its expanse of trees and brush and, of course, weeds.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, the property between Jan and Salmaan drives will open as Carmichael's newest neighborhood park – Jan Park.

The park, built for under $500,000, was financed in large measure by a $410,000 grant from Proposition 84, approved by state voters in 2006.

But the park is larger than originally proposed – 13.6 acres instead of about 9 – thanks to an effort involving neighborhood residents and local donors who joined forces with the Carmichael Recreation and Park District.

"We were able to build the park and to keep it natural," said Tracy Kerth, recreation services manager for the district. "It's lovely."

Resident Joyce Carroll, who lives less than a block from the site, said neighbors were disappointed that the district would have to sell 4.5 acres of the land to finance park creation. About 28 months ago, she said, she decided to rally neighbors to save the whole site.

Carroll printed about 700 fliers with a proposal to "meet on my lawn." She walked the neighborhood to distribute them, she said.

About 65 people showed up and voted to form a neighborhood association with the focus of saving the entire site for Jan Park.

Carroll's description of the effort sounds easy. It wasn't.

"It was truly grass-roots," she said.

A civil engineer volunteered a large share of his time to rework the original park master plan.

The community held rummage sales.

There were cash donations from groups such as the Active 20/30 Club of Sacramento, from individuals and from area businesses.

The new Barrett Hills Neighborhood Association raised more than $30,000 in contributions, Carroll said, and the civil engineer invested perhaps that much more in in-kind work.

It's not the first such collaboration in the region. Increasingly, as local park districts stretch their dollars to provide parks and maintenance, local residents are taking part.

In the Cosumnes Community Services District, for example, neighbors of the Jordan Family Park in east Elk Grove voted to assess themselves an additional $159 yearly to pay for maintenance, said Bob Roessler, administrator of parks and recreation for the district.

The park, on Jordan Ranch Road, opened a year ago.

In other small parks, neighbors have collaborated in fundraising to create new playgrounds. And volunteers regularly maintain rose gardens and other neighborhood sites.

In Carmichael's new Jan Park, there are small picnic areas; children's play equipment; drinking fountains for people and dogs; trails, including some that are accessible to the disabled; restrooms; and waste cans and pet waste stations, said Kerth, the Carmichael park district official.

The land has more than 500 oak trees spread among four species, and there is a seasonal water feature, Carroll said.

Carroll said her children are grown, but her grandchildren visit her every month and can enjoy the park.

Some neighbors already are showing their commitment to helping maintain the park, she said.

"This morning there was a neighbor cleaning out some of the weeds. That's the mentality. This is our park. We worked hard. We have a sense of ownership," she said.

"The park district will do most of the maintenance. But trust me. We'll be out there alongside them."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Loretta Kalb

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