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The city of Gustine plans to use Prop. 68 funds to replace aging playground equipment in Schmidt Park. 

GUSTINE - The city is planning to use nearly $178,000 in funds acquired through a state bond measure to replace the aging playground equipment in Schmidt Park.

City Council members last week reviewed schematic plans for the new playground complex, one of several improvements planned for the 25-acre park.

The city also plans to create a walking path around the park, with construction expected to break ground this fall, and is working on plans to renovate the tennis courts.

The playground upgrade is the latest project to be announced by the city. It will be funded by a per-capita allocation from Prop. 68, explained Jami Westervelt, the city’s economic and community development director.

Schmidt Park has not met the criteria for Prop. 68-funded projects such as the planned renovation of Pioneer Park on the city’s east side, which involved a competitive grant process. But the planned playground project does meet guidelines for the per-capita funds, which are available to cities without going through a competitive application process.

“We are being very thoughtful in trying to plan a playground that is an optimum play experience and within the budget,” said Westervelt, noting that she is working with a company that offers matching grants to extend the city’s purchasing power.

Council members got a look at conceptual plans at their Sept. 1 meeting, and offered their input.

A schematic plan favored by consensus included multiple slides of varying heights, a climbing area, and ADA compliant swing and other elements, Westervelt told Mattos Newspapers.

“It is a nice, well-rounded experience for children who visit the playground,” Westervelt said of the play structure arrangement.

But the absence of traditional swings in the conceptual playground configuration was noted by several council members, and staff was asked to add that element to the plans.

“That is one of the first things that kids gravitate to,” Mayor Pat Nagy said of swings.

Council member Derek Alexander also asked about benches, and was advised that they could be added to the plans.

Shade structures are integrated into the playground elements, but the council questioned if larger shade areas might be in order.

The cost of a larger, free-standing shade structure might in itself exhaust the project funds, Westervelt said.

Plans call for the new playground to be constructed in a more central park location, in clear view of the nearby baseball fields and further away from the highway. Westervelt said that location will also offer natural shade from surrounding trees during much of the day.

She will return to the council with more detailed plans, options for elements such as surface coverings and cost estimates.

“The equipment dictates your surfacing requirements. You have to have the appropriate amount of space for each piece of equipment,” Westervelt explained. “As you pick your equipment, you can change your surfacing costs significantly.”

When those factors are established, Westervelt added, she can provide a more detailed cost projections.

No matching funds are required for the Prop. 68 funds because Gustine qualifies as a disadvantaged community.

Input gathered from community sessions last summer, as the city was applying for park grants to improve Pioneer and Henry Miller parks, helped guide planning for the playground, Westervelt emphasized.

City Manager Doug Dunford said the project is part of a comprehensive effort to upgrade city parks.

In addition to the Pioneer Park renovation, the city is applying again for grants to improve Henry Miller Park.

Schmidt Park has not been forgotten in the process.

“When we get the walking path in, and the new playground and some other things, I think it will help revitalize Schmidt Park and make it a more enjoyable place to go,” Dunford concluded.