July 8, 2014

Grant will add skate park, playground equipment to Merced park

Within two years, one of the largest parks in South Merced should look considerably different, thanks to an $828,775 state grant.

Within two years, one of the largest parks in south Merced should look considerably different, thanks to an $828,775 state grant.

Stephen Leonard Park at Seventh and T streets will get a skate park, shade structures, a splash park, new playground equipment, climbing rocks, security cameras and bike racks. The project also includes benches, lights, drinking fountains, building repair and painting, sprinkler controllers, tables, trees and new sidewalks.

The city of Merced received the money as part of a state Housing-Related Parks Program grant, city spokesman Mike Conway said.

Mark Hamilton, city housing program supervisor, wrote the grant and said the renovations will have a positive impact. He said residents asked for many of the improvements included in the project.

Hamilton said the park has been a local fixture since the 1930s; it sits across the street from Margaret Sheehy Elementary School.

After a contract is signed with the state, Conway said, the city will have two years to complete the work. The city’s Housing Division and Recreation Department were co-authors of the grant application, with help from the Engineering Department.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development awarded the money to Merced because of the completion of two low-income housing projects, Woodbridge and Gateway Terrace.

In early January, the Merced City Council voted 5-2 to apply for the grant. Some residents were irked after learning of plans to remove the aged swimming pool at the 2.7-acre park. The pool will be replaced by the splash pad.

Conway said the Housing-Related Parks Program grant is based on park acreage per 1,000 residents in a census tract. When staff calculated the formulas, Stephen Leonard had fewer than 3 park acres per 1,000 residents, yielding the highest return in grant dollars.

The state program had $25 million available this year to city and county agencies for projects to improve park facilities.

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