The City of Fresno has reached a tentative agreement with an outside group that could result in a new park on city-owned property in southeast Fresno. FM89’s Joe Moore reports the partnership could resolve an issue that has concerned city officials and residents for over a decade.
Back in 2006, the federal government gave the City of Fresno 49 acres on Peach Avenue south of Butler in southeast Fresno. There was one catch however – the city had to use the former USDA research site for a new public park. Thanks to the recession and the city’s budget problems that never happened, and the federal government has threatened to take the property back.
That could change with the deal that goes before the city council on Thursday. Under the draft agreement the city would give the Southeast Fresno Regional Park and Soccer Complex Joint Powers Authority control over about a third of the property for one year. They hope that’s enough time to demonstrate they can raise money for the project, which is described as a regional soccer facility. The group would also agree to cleanup the site, install 60,000 square feet of new turf, and plant 120 trees.
The group is led by Jose Leon-Barazza and includes the City of Sanger and the Malaga County Water District. If they’re successful, the city would eventually transfer title of the property to the Joint Powers Authority.
Of course funding will be a key challenge. The city estimates it could cost $25 million to build the park, and as much as $750,000 a year to maintain it. Fresno’s new parks master plan says the city needs 1,100 acres of new green space, much of it in the southern half of the city. Fresno routinely ranks at the bottom of nationwide lists for public access to parks, and south Fresno residents have fewer parks than their north Fresno counterparts.
While most of the land is currently vacant, a portion of the property is currently used for a community garden. Several abandoned buildings also occupy the site. In 2010, two former USDA buildings on the site were destroyed in a fire which fire investigators suggested was arson. The city eventually collected $1.3 million in insurance proceeds on the buildings, and used the money for repairs on a variety of other city-owned properties.