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Volunteer gardeners dig into mud to plant new park

By: Jenna Nielsen, Gold Country News Service
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LOOMIS ” Wet weather and muddy soil didn't stop more than 60 volunteers from planting 2,400 shrubs and cover plants at the nearly completed Franklin School Community Park in Loomis on Saturday, March 29. The group of volunteers who organized the planting day had originally set a rain date for April 5, but decided to go ahead with the work anyway once early morning rains soaked the dirt. The volunteers were able to complete the planting in just three hours. The turnout was tremendous given the rain, said Tim Arndt, senior project manager for Placer County Parks and Recreation. We've been out here since 7 a.m. this morning sweating it, said Kiwanis volunteer Mark Thomas. There was no decision ever to stop. We are a group that is hard to quit and we don't take ˜no' easily. According to Kiwanis member Ron Feist, the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs of Granite Bay organized the planting day. The two clubs donated approximately $12,000 for the project. Feist said the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs have their own identities, but they pull together for the good of the community. This was a dedicated group of volunteers. People just jumped right in, Feist said. Muddy shoes and rain-soaked pants didn't discourage Granite Bay High School freshman Becki Fox, 16. Today is about helping the park, Fox said. Working out here, getting wet, it's really not that bad. And doing this for the park and the people who will use it, makes it all worth it. The $1.4 million park, paid for by Placer County developer fees, is located on a 4.5-acre site adjacent to Franklin Elementary School. The property is owned by the Loomis Union School District. Arndt said there is still some work to be done on the park involving electrical plus finishing touches. A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new park is scheduled for May 8. The park will feature the county's first synthetic turf baseball field and the county's second synthetic turf soccer field, Arndt said. Later this spring, the Rotary Club is planning to install a covered picnic area featuring two barbecues and 12 picnic tables. The club raised approximately $40,000 and they are receiving donations of materials and labor. These improvements are valued at $150,000. The low-maintenance fields will be used by local students, youth sports groups and other community members. Plans are still being finalized for the care and management of the park once it is completed. Jim Durfee, Loomis resident and director of facility services for the county, commented that the park was a joint effort involving the county, Loomis school district and the two service club. None us had the resources to do these things by ourselves. It gives everybody ownership of the park, Durfee said. Arndt said that a second phase for the park is planned, but is still years off. That phase would include a tot lot and restrooms. The school district land at the park site also includes a Living History Center, which is under construction. The facility will be used by the schools and community as an educational center. James Chambers, a committee member and volunteer, said he missed out on his daughter's soccer match to help out Saturday. Anything to help our kids and give them a place to grow up into, is important, Chambers said. We know the communities that don't have places like this and we know the problems they have. This is our opportunity to give back. As far as the weather affecting his day? Of course we would love to have sunshine today, but we can't just say, ˜We're not going to do anything because the sun is not shining,' he said. We might be tired and wet at the end of the day, but the great feeling of participating in something the community wanted and needed is worth it. The Loomis News' Joyia Emard contributed to this report.