Merced County to form new Franklin Beachwood recreation committee

An ordinance approved by the Merced County Board of Supervisors this week will create a new Franklin Beachwood recreation committee – a popular request and a first for the area – and reduce membership requirements for other county recreation committees.

The unanimous action Tuesday was met with positive feedback from residents of the Franklin Beachwood area, who advocated for a committee of their own. Before Tuesday, the county’s local area recreation committee ordinance didn’t include the Franklin Beachwood area.

“We just discovered we weren’t even in the ordinance, and we have a large population that’s been growing,” said Toni Borges, a Franklin Beachwood area resident, during the board meeting. “We really need it out there. We have a really high gang rate.”

Public Works Director Dana Hertfelder said the county’s 10 recreation committees review and recommend how to use parkland dedication fees, which are paid by developers of new residential construction. The money is intended for capital improvement projects to existing parks.

Each committee was required to have from five to 12 members, but it was hard to attract volunteers, Hertfelder said. The new ordinance will reduce membership to five volunteers for each committee, except for Planada, which remains at seven members.

“It has become increasingly difficult to find volunteers to fill these committees,” Hertfelder said. “There’s not a lot of money to spend and not a lot of activity, so it’s hard to attract interest.”

Hertfelder said the requests for a Franklin Beachwood committee sparked changes to the county’s ordinance, which hadn’t been updated since the 1990s. “I think they want to have some input into what the recreation priorities are in the area and where to spend the parkland dedication fees,” he said.

The ordinance consolidated the Ballico and Cressey commissions into one.

District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey said the move made sense because the communities share a school district, baseball leagues and other clubs.

“The community has a lot of cohesion in and of itself,” Kelsey said. “This just modernizes the recreation committee language and makes it clear to everybody how it needs to proceed into the future.”

The item on Tuesday’s agenda eliminated some recreation committees in the incorporated cities because the county doesn’t provide funding to those areas for recreational activities.

According to the ordinance, the County Recreation Commission will also be eliminated. That group hasn’t been active since 1995, Hertfelder said.

Hertfelder encouraged members of the public to get involved with recreation committees in their area.

“It gives the public a forum to discuss and participate in the process of looking at how the parkland dedication fees are used in their areas,” he said. “It always helps us to get as much community input as we can as we look at what capital improvements we want to invest in.”

Anyone interested in joining one of the county’s recreation committees should call Public Works at (209) 385-7601.