The plan for the Newman Community Conservation Area, south of Newman, is moving forward, with city officials preparing to bid out some projects and search for funding on others.

The Newman Community Conservation Area is planned for city-owned property that is north of Brazo Road and east of Canal School Road in Merced County. The vision for the property includes wetlands and a nature park with hiking trails. The plan has four key components for the property.

The first area will be a 21-acre wetland complex that will be used to treat storm run-off from the city and surrounding ag lands. Named the Newman Environmental Wetlands System, this area will have a series of treatment cells that will remove sediment and contaminants from the city’s wastewater as it flows to the San Joaquin River. The City of Newman was previously award a grant of $6.4 million from Proposition 1 funds that will cover the cost of construction for this part of the project.

Kathryn Reyes, the city’s public works director, said about 90 to 100 percent of the design for this part of the project is completed and the city expects to put it out to bid in late spring or early summer.

“This is exciting,” Reyes said during a Newman City Council meeting. “This is the first of many contracts that we will be entering into for N.E.W.S.”

When the grant was awarded, the State Water Resources Control Board said Newman was “is at the forefront of a major shift in California in how we think about storm water. Rather than viewing storm water only as a nuisance due to threats posed by flooding or pollutants in storm water, communities throughout the state are looking for ways to turn storm water into a resource to combat droughts and the effects of climate change.” 

The wetlands systems covers about 20 acres in the 78-acre Newman Community Conservation Area and will serve a storm drain watershed of about 2,300 acres.

The second component of the Newman Community Conservation Area will see construction of a seasonal wetland, riparian and grassland restoration project. This project extends beyond the primary 78-acre site to encompass an additional 24 acres of degraded wetlands. The city has received more than $600,000 in funding for that restoration project. Reyes said the design is about 70 percent complete and that it also is expected to go out to bid this year.

The third aspect of the project is a 16-acre wetlands project planned in conjunction with UC Merced which will treat water from the Miller Ditch to remove ag-related contaminants. Reyes said UC Merced is continuing to work on the concept of this area.

The final part of the Newman Community Conservation Area is a proposed 25-acre nature park, which  will feature amenities such as a community plaza, a play area, demonstration gardens featuring native vegetation, a trail network and more. 

The city applied for a $4.3 million grant from Proposition 68, the State Parks and Water Act of 2018, but recently learned they were not approved for this grant.

“I’m dumbfounded as to how we could not get funded,” Reyes said.

The city is now applying for a grant through the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Rural Recreation and Tourism Program to pay for the nature park. The Newman City Council will vote on whether or not to submit an application for the grant on Tuesday.

“This new grant program seems like a good fit for our nature park,” Reyes said.