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Lodi Lake honors philanthropic family for 70th anniversary

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Posted: Friday, May 21, 2004 10:00 pm

When George Hughes, grandson of former Lodi philanthropist Louis T. Mason, looks out on Lodi Lake, he thinks of days long past when he and his family used to go water skiing in the 1940s with nothing more than a board tied to the stern of his grandfather's boat.

But when Lodi Mayor Larry Hansen looks out past the lake's shining surface, he thinks of the generosity of citizens like Mason, who gave the gift of the lake and the land around it to the city of Lodi.

For the 70th anniversary of Lodi Lake's transition from private to public property Friday, the Lodi Historical Society celebrated the opening of an extended pedestrian trail and rededicated a 1952 plaque paying homage to the Mason family, who made it all possible.

Grandchildren of Louis T. Mason came to the lakefront ceremony from as far away as Fresno to commemorate their predecessors' contribution to the city of Lodi.

"It's been 70 years since Louis Mason gave the gift of recreation to the city of Lodi," said Lodi Historical Society President Eric Neff, speaking about the cause for the rededication of the plaque.

The bronze plaque is to be reset into a pedestal near a drinking fountain near the beach, according to Lodi Park Superintendent Steve Dutra.

The plaque reads, "No plaque of stone or bronze can adequately honor a gift of nature's loveliness such as this park."

"We want to preserve our historical sites," said Ralph Lea, member of the Lodi Historical Society. "We want people to know them and to know their city's history."

And perhaps, if Lodi Lake is lucky, history will continue to repeat itself.

In 1910, after the construction of the original Woodbridge Dam, Louis T. Mason purchased the area around what was then called Smith's Lake, after original owner Charles Edward Smith.

The Mason family built an estate called "Home Lake" on the land and ran a fruit company on the property, according to the Lodi Historical Society.

After nearly 25 years of ownership Mason sold the lake, which was estimated at more than $31,000, to the city of Lodi for a mere $7,924. The land then became known in 1934 as Lodi Lake Municipal Park.

Mason, a notable philanthropist, also donated lakeside land holdings to the city, which extended the grounds around the park.

The Mason family was originally honored by the city of Lodi in 1952 and presented with a plaque, which was set into a rock formation.

The plaque, according to Friends of the Lake member Donna Phillips, was removed from the park years ago by the Parks and Recreation Department because the structure into which it was set was disintegrating.

"Several years ago, they took it down because it had lost its integrity," Phillips said. "Kids were climbing on it and they thought it was dangerous."

Phillips said that the remainder of the plaque was in storage at the park until a year ago, when the Parks and Recreation Department suggested it be given to the Historical Society.

"I hate to lose history. It's sad," said Phillips. "So many things have been taken down and they just kind of get lost."

The Lodi Historical Society decided to clean it up and rededicate it to the Mason family in time for the anniversary of the city's purchase of Lodi Lake.

Members of the Friends of the Lake said they felt it was time to honor the family again for their role in Lake Park's history, at a time when improvement projects like the pedestrian trail are building onto dreams made long ago.

The 2,165-foot Phase II pedestrian and bike trail extends along the west side of the lake to the Woodbridge Masonic Cemetery.

The planning and construction of the nearly $200,000 bike trail has been in the works since 1999, when former Assemblyman Anthony Pescetti R-Rancho Cordova added it to a list of construction projects he hoped to see improve the Lodi Lake area.

The completion of Phase III, a large part of the entire $785,000 bike and pedestrian path project, would include a causeway that would create a continuous path around the lake.

Contact reporter Sara Cardine at intern@lodinews.com.

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