Lodi’s smallest park is set to receive a major facelift after a stream of funding made available through Measure L.
At the June 19 City Council Meeting, the council adopted a resolution, awarding a contract for Candy Cane Park improvements to the Lodi based construction company A. M. Stephens Construction Co. Inc.
Candy Cane Park, located on Holly Drive, is expected to receive a new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant playground structure, benches, picnic tables, swings, a new drinking fountain, concrete sidewalks, updated fencing, and a new stone park sign.
The 0.20 acre park was built in the late 1950s by the Soroptimist International of Lodi, who also and donated a new play structure for the park in 1991.
The playground received minor updates again in 1997, in order to meet American’s with Disabilities (ADA) standards. However, the play structure was removed in 2017 after it began deteriorating.
The Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Jeff Hood stated the structure was ultimately removed for code-compliance and safety reasons.
“We removed the old play structure (in 2017) after Measure R didn’t pass. We delayed removing it in the hopes we would get the funding to redo the park completely,” Hood said.
In 2016 the parks department set aside $55,000 for playground upgrades for Candy Cane Park, in the hopes that Measure R — a sales tax measure in favor of enacting an additional 0.125 percent sales tax for 15 years to fund park updates and riverbank erosion repairs — with the failure of Measure R, the parks department got approval from council to redirect the money to needed roof repairs at Salas Park.
After losing the funding and the parking structure, local activist Myrna Wetzel began picketing in front of the park every day for 56 weeks.
“I began picketing on May 30, last year,” Wetzel said. “I do not have children or grandchildren in this area that play at this park, but it is important for kids to get exercise, and move their bodies instead of sitting in front of their electronics all day.”
While picketing in front of the park Wetzel has had people tell her stories about the park and how integral it was to their childhood.
“People will honk when they see me walking with my dog in front of the park,” Wetzel said.
Once Measure L passed — a half-cent sales tax increase that would go into Lodi's general fund — Candy Cane park was on the top of the list of parks considered to receive funding for park restoration projects according to Hood.
After hearing about the updates expected for the park has expressed how ecstatic she is to know the children in the neighborhood will have new play equipment.
“My first thought when I heard the news was ‘Yippee!’ ” Wetzel said. “I am thrilled and happy. The kids in this area deserve it.”
“Over the next couple of weeks we will be finalizing contracts with A.M. Stephens, and then we’ll begin ordering equipment,” Hood said.
The projects expected completion is set for this calendar year and will cost the city an estimated $400,000.
The city engineer initially estimated the cost of the park would be $298,279. Following bids from contractors the lowest bid received from five different contractors was $347,600 (from A.M. Stephens).
“When you look at the rising cost of steel and how expensive cement is, and how much it cost to irrigate the property and add a water fountain, the cost is not surprising. Unfortunately, that is how much a park costs these days,” Hood said.
In a report by the city they stated, “Since bid prices came in higher than anticipated, staff will evaluate options to reduce construction costs, as appropriate, to be more consistent with the engineer’s estimate.”
As plans are underway for Candy Cane Park, the parks department is working on a new playground structure at English Oaks Park on Dorchester Circle and converting Beckman Park located on West Century Boulevard into an outdoor fitness structure.