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  • Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation

    The Oak Park entrance arch, erected by park owner Electric Power and Light Company, in 1903. Oak Park was a privately owned amusement park created in 1889 by a streetcar company.

  • Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation

    “Scenic Railway,” a three-story wooden roller coaster that was part of Oak Park amusement park, the precursor to McClatchy Park. The ride was added in 1903 by the park owner, Electric Power and Light Company. The roller coaster was destroyed in a fire on June 21, 1920.

Sacramento considers McClatchy Park makeover

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 - 12:00 am

Visitors to the renovated McClatchy Park later this year could see hints of a roller coaster, carousel and zoo in new playground structures – all reminiscent of the site’s past as an amusement park.

“It will attract parents to bring kids from all over the city,” said Dennis Day, associate landscape architect with the Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation. “There is so much history in this park.”

Sacramento City Council members tonight will consider granting a $2.4 million contract to Goodland Landscape Construction of Tracy to renovate a portion of the 15.2-acre site in Oak Park. If approved this month, work can start as early as April and finish in the fall.

“This is the largest investment in McClatchy Park’s history,” said Day, adding that the park will be 125 years old this year.

The city plans to spend just under $3 million on the park makeover. The proposal calls for a new, greatly expanded playground with a water spray area for hot summer days, a butterfly garden and a picnic pavilion. A new “adventure area” will have play structures that will resemble a roller coaster, trolley cars and concession stand items, while a new tot area will have concrete animals, a mini train and fun house elements.

A skate park and jogging trail also will be built in response to resident demand. A basketball court will be replaced by a half-size court and a “drop shot” game court for younger children.

Funding for the project will come mainly from a Proposition 84 state grant and developer fees. Proposition 84, which voters approved in 2006, funds projects related to water quality, natural resource protection and state and local park improvements.

More than a century ago, the site at 3500 Fifth Avenue was an 8-acre amusement park known as Oak Park. In 1913, it was renamed Joyland, which had a three-story wooden roller coaster, a small zoo and a carousel, among other attractions. Fire destroyed most of the rides in 1920, but the park was partially reconstructed.

When Joyland closed in 1927, Valentine McClatchy bought the site. He donated the property to the city for a park on the condition that it be named after his father, James McClatchy, a founding editor of The Sacramento Bee.

The renovation will require that the playground, tennis and basketball courts be relocated, but the other existing facilities – the amphitheater, swimming pool and softball field, as well as the farmers market – will stay where they are and remain open during the park makeover.

Over the years, McClatchy Park has developed a reputation for being unsafe, with drug dealers frequenting the site. However, the image of the park began changing in 2012 when a farmers market was added and volunteers put in a Frisbee golf course.

“We already have seen some changes over the years,” said Michael Boyd, president of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association. “There have been fewer and fewer arrests over there.”

The park renovation will include a number of safety features: new concrete walkways, security cameras, solar pathway lights and a low fence around the adventure play area.

“I think it will make a big difference,” said Boyd. “It will make it more inviting to have people come and use the park.”

Some of the changes are a departure from proposals offered by residents a few years ago and then incorporated into the master plan. But Boyd was philosophical about the alterations.

“The plans have been adapted over the years,” he said. “The main thing is developing the park. We’ll find out what people want from the park when they show up in greater numbers.”

Call The Bee’s Tillie Fong, (916) 321-1006.

Read more articles by Tillie Fong

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