NEWMAN - The city has finalized its application for a $4.3 million grant to develop a nature park in an unincorporated area southwest of Newman.

Council members recently authorized staff to submit the application after reviewing the conceptual plan for the nature park, which would occupy approximately 26 acres of the planned 78-acre Newman Community Conservation Area.

Public workshops helped shape the amenities to be included in the park, which include a walking path in a nature-based setting, a nature-themed playground area, a community gathering area, adult fitness stations, a demonstration garden, community plaza, a public art feature, a community plaza and restrooms.

“It is a pretty exciting plan,” Director of Public Works Kathryn Reyes told the City Council. “We are really trying to incorporate everything the community told us they wanted out there that fits the site.”

Reyes said the active park space with most of the amenities will be located on about six acres off Brazo Road, with the remainder staying in natural habitat.

The plan is to develop a one-mile walking trail through the natural habitat, Reyes explained, with two  paths cutting across to provide shorter loops for those who do not wish to walk the full trail.

“This is going to be a different type of park than the community has,” she told Mattos Newspapers. “I am extremely excited about the potential for outdoor learning. Plus, it is a very peaceful area where you can hear the birds chirping and the wind blowing. It is very nice out there.”

The city is applying for Proposition 68 grant funds to build the nature park. While the grant is highly competitive, Reyes said she believes the city has a strong application.

If funded, she explained, the city will move forward with a detailed design for council consideration.

The nature park is part of the planned Newman Community Conservation Area. The city owns the property, which is located in Merced County east of Canal School Road and north of Brazo Road. The overall concept includes three distinct elements in addition to the nature park.

Reyes said the other components include:

• The Newman Environmental Wetlands System, which is a series of treatment cells that will remove sediment and contaminants from the city’s wastewater as it flows to the San Joaquin River. Vegetation serves as a natural filter for the storm drain runoff. The city was recently awarded a $6.4 million grant to fund construction of that component, which encompasses about 21 acres of the site.

• Ten acres of restored wetlands and riparian habitat. Reyes said the wetlands component is in the design stage, and that a $610,000 grant through the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has been awarded for construction.

• The fourth component is a system to treat agricultural irrigation tail water. That project is being analyzed in a partnership with UC Merced, Reyes said.

Master plan

A master plan and environmental document for the Newman Community Conservation Area has been completed, Reyes said. A public review and comment period on that document continues through April 19.

“We are basically letting any interested party know what we plan for the area and how we are going to mitigate any environmental concerns,” Reyes explained.

Any comments received will be addressed and incorporated into the document, which will go to the City Council for consideration of approval at its May 11 meeting.

The master plan can be accessed and downloaded from the City of Newman website at tinyurl.com/newmannaturepark.