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Rankin Renovation Rankles Some Residents

City officials say the grading of the park is required to meet federal ADA requirements.

With the passage of in 2008, Martinez voters approved a $30 million bond to build a new , , and fix up the parks. So far, people seem happy with the pool and the library, but some folks are not at all happy with the way at least one park renovation project is going.

For the past two weeks, has looked more like a vacant dirt lot filled with rubble than a park, as earth movers and dump trucks cut into the once-verdant soil to level off the hillside property and make way for new playground equipment.

The project is going to be accessible for people with disabilities, as required by federal law, but to make that happen, city officials say that the park, which has a long and treasured history, has to be completely redone. And that is not sitting well with some.

One person objecting is Bill Wainwright, former city councilman and the great-grandson of the man for whom the park is named. He noted that of the 47 trees removed during the renovation, four of them were olive trees planted by his great-grandfather, James Rankin, and donated to the city.

“There were some beautiful old olive trees hanging over the benches,” Wainwright said. “Of those six trees, two are remaining. It’s a terrible thing they tore them out. Don’t see how they needed to do that for ADA compliance.”

Park, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission chairman Dylan Radke said the trees were inspected by an arborist, who determined that they were burned out, diseased and required removal.

“We are replacing those trees with twice as many mature trees,” Radke said. “The park is going to look beautiful when the work is done.”

But Wainwright was not convinced.

“Olive trees don’t get diseased and infected,” he said. “Those trees were in good health.”

“So the grand park we had is no more, to be replaced with a run of the mill playground,” said Mark Garris, who said he grew up near the park. “It was a gift to Martinez to prevent this kind of development from going on. It wasn’t just a gift to do what the hell you want with.”

Garris said the city “snuck in in the middle of the night” with no notice to the community that the work was going to take place.

City Engineer Tim Tucker responded that the plans for the park have been discussed at length with the PRMCC. He added that the renovations are necessary to bring the park up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.

“Obviously we don’t want to grade an ounce of dirt,” Tucker said. “But we’re required to make site ADA accessible.”

He said similar grading will soon take place at Hidden Valley Park, as the city begins that renovation project.

Nancy Perry White September 09, 2011 at 04:50 AM
Mike, you actually graduated from Alhambra?? .Obviously English was not your strong suit. Your attack on any of the Council is unfounded. I don't live in Martinez proper ( I live in Alhambra Valley in the low rent district) but have been here my entire life. My parents were totally for preservantion of our Community but I don't believe they ever attacked anyone who is working to do their best with the info they have. Your attack on the Kennedy family is inflamatory and un-called for. You want to be taken seriously...take a class or two in grammar, political science and try again. With such malicious posts you cannot really think you could ever get anyone to agree with you. It appears your thoughts are for the betterment of Martinez, but spewing such vitriolic propaganda will do nothing except but drive citizen's away. Your point would be more accept if you chose not to attack.
MIKE ALFORD September 09, 2011 at 05:28 AM
Well Nancy -- That Wasnt nice ! I Do Want you to know that I went All the way to the (9th Grade) -- And I did get into Alhambra High School --- I Guess I Just Cant Make You People Happy ? -- Now how or what did I say that upset you so much about Janet ? After all she is and has been for bringing in Re development For years -- and her husband has been at the Helm of re development for years here in Contra Costa county -- I never got on Janet at all tonight ? I think well that you must have misunderstood Me -- Just think of how much more housing we could have here in Martinez -- After all look how much re development did for all the other citys around here and in California !Are You Upset Because you live in Alhambra Valley -- and you feel like they wouldnt build low cost housing Out There ? Well Im sorry you thought That I was Getting on Janet -- But If You Talk To her you will see just how much that I support Her -- What can I Say ! Cant We Just All Get Along Cant You See Im Just Trying To Be Supportive Of All You Progressives -- Look Its Just One Mans Oppinion -- And Im just makeing it ! -- This is America --- And When I was Down At The Law offices that I do research for -- I Do Have that right
Sarah Williams September 09, 2011 at 03:41 PM
Also after years of planning shouldn't you already be aware of the fact that it is a Native American Burial Site. The fact that your oblivious to that shows the lack of care in this project.
Nancy Perry White September 09, 2011 at 06:58 PM
First of all I do live in the low rent area of Alhambra Valley. I live on one of the older ranches and have been here for 46 years. We are all self-sustaining out here. No water, gas, cable services in this area. I have spent my entire life here in Martinez and you were a year ahead of me in high school. If I misunderstood you I apologize. I have worked with Jim Kennedy for years and I know his dedication to improving communities.
Gay Gerlack September 12, 2011 at 09:18 PM
Someone misread my last note, I was teaching out of town last Friday, not taking a three day weekend. My weekend was spent supporting and working for various Martinez groups as well as researching the Native American status of Rankin Park. The Native American Graves Protection and Repartriation Act (NAGPRA) 1990 is the primary federal legislative group that deals with the protection of graves and human remains; the Native American Heritage Commission is the governing body for California. I could not find any documentation of Rankin Park being a Native American burial site, if you have any such documentation, please forward it to me. It is true that the Coastal Native Americans hunted and fished thoughout the area, leaving traces and evidence of their culture. If Rankin Park was a burial site we would not have been able to build in the first place. Rankin Park was created in 1937 when the city purchased the property from James Rankin. As a result of A. Joseph Tavan's philanthrophy to the city, many of the parks improvements were realized. So the softball field is named after him. The ball field is being renovated, not removed. The park has been renovated at least a couple of times over the years, each time, old equipment and plantings have been removed and new ones provided. The meetings of the PRMCC are always posted in the newspaper, and unless otherwise noted, they are the third Tuesday of each month, and are open to the public.
Nancy Perry White September 12, 2011 at 10:03 PM
Gay, that you for clarifying that. Nancy Perry White
Sarah Williams September 16, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Gay is it true that there will be a fee to visit the park when construction is over? Several people have mentioned it although no one seems to be sure, I was hoping you could clarify this for me.
Gay Gerlack September 16, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Sarah, all of our parks are free, there is a charge for the pool, but that is a different situation. To be 100% I will confirm at the PRMCC meeting next Tuesday, but I've never heard of any fees for any of our parks. And, I don't feel that any of our members would approve charging.
Nancy Perry White September 16, 2011 at 10:36 PM
They do charge a fee for reserving an area. It's a small fee and guarantees the area that you are planning to use will be available.
Gay Gerlack September 16, 2011 at 10:58 PM
Nancy is correct, to "reserve" areas there is a fee, but not for general use. It is less expensive if you are a Martinez resident. Thank you Nancy for further clarifying the fee question.
Sarah Williams September 17, 2011 at 02:01 AM
Great, thanks for clarifying.
Tobias Thomas September 30, 2011 at 01:44 AM
Was there a environmental impact assessment done?? Gay Gerlack YES/NO If not>> you might wont to take a look at California Environmental Quality Act>> I believe the direction the Martinez council is taking us doesn't have the best interest of the people. Its to bad Rankin park had to die to get the point across. Martinez people are children of John Muir>> He's beliefs live inside all of are hearts. I don't think he would have agreed with the councils' modern view of were they are taken us. Martinez is a historic place built off the backs of great people. There views on protecting are wild life and are past is something are council members should considered not the all mighty dollar. This disaster is proof that city council should not make discussions for the people of Martinez. John Muir stopped people like this from destroying mother nature so we could preserve nature for are children. Is this the kinda be people we want elected ??
Gay Gerlack September 30, 2011 at 06:57 AM
To begin, I got the impression you think I'm on the City Council, I'm not. I ran for a seat on the City Council in the last election and lost. I was part of the Citizens for Measure H, a bond that the citizens of Martinez approved to rebuild our swimming pool, renovate the library and upgrade every park in Martinez. Upgrades will bring our parks up to ADA and playground safety standards. I serve on the Park, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission. I am an executive member of the Alhambra Hills Open Space Committee to save our hills from being developed with million dollar homes. I am on the board of the Martinez Historical Society. I am on the board of the John Muir Association working with the National Park Service. I am on the board of the Friends of the Library, the Martinez Art Association, the Martinez Early Childhood Center, and will be working with the homeless outreach program. I am in a couple of service groups that provide help to those in need and scholarships to local students. I work and volunteer in Martinez, to protect and preserve it's history, culture and open space. As you can see from the list of my volunteer groups, I am working for the things you hold dear, as do I. You ask if an environmental impact assessment was done on Rankin Park, I doubt it because Rankin Park is still a park and will not have any more impact on the environment than it's had since it was first established. Your other question: is this the kind of people we want elected? No.
Gay Gerlack September 30, 2011 at 07:16 AM
Thank you, you are correct, the error was mine. "In 1937, a muncipal park was 'created' with the purchase of the James Rankin property". Source: Martinez - A California Town. "James Rankin was elected sheriff in 1884 and served on the board of directors and later as president of the Bank of Martinez from 1893 until his death in 1902." Source: Images of America - Martinez. Either 1901 or 1902, James Rankin definately did not sell the property directly to the city. Again, thank you as it was not my intention to give misinformation.
Marshall Cochrane September 30, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Next time out....VOTE for Gay Gerlack...this woman loves Martinez and...No One, I mean No One owns her...Yah everyone wants to piss and moan but when we had and opportunity to make a difference we voted for the status quo...Dog gone it...You must vote for people like gay...I mean...she really loves Martinez....Has no hidden agenda...No power trip...Next time out....Please, Please, Please (feeling like James Brown) This lady is the Real Deal...Check her out....
Hope Savage September 30, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Yeah!!! Vote for Gay!!
Gay Gerlack October 05, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Yes, please, I am interested in learning more.
debra October 06, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Im wondering how many people saw or noticed at the end of that article it says they are soon to do something similar to hidden lakes park. OH NO! how can we stop them ? how do we find out? does anyone have any info?
debra October 06, 2011 at 10:05 PM
ALSO ENVIROMENTAL IMPACT WILL BE A DISASTER.
Kristin Henderson October 07, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Hey Gay, that is an interesting point: "will not have any more impact ont he environment than it has had since it was first established". But I think its the grading, which is not part of a regular impact of pedestrian use of a park. Yet, good question, as it graded in the 1930's or 1940's? As a historic landscape, definitely there is an argument to be made, but now that you bring up previous developments of the park it makes one wonder. Did Miwoks have shell mounds? Don't know. BTW, for everyone, there is a great documentary about Emeryville's development over the shellmounds: http://www.shellmoundthemovie.com/ I recommend highly.
Kristin Henderson October 08, 2011 at 06:14 AM
Love you, Cooki.
p. mcmakin January 24, 2012 at 10:12 PM
I would like to know how ugly concrete walls with lines drawn into them to make them resemble actual stone walls have any relationship whatsoever to a "natural" park and playground setting. Has anyone seen what they're doing at the park? We live close by so I can get a birds-eye view while walking the dog. So far, there is nothing that looks as though it could possibly hold playground equipment of any size; merely numerous small areas (perhaps individual picnic spots?) and umpteen ugly 'stone' walls just like the ones you'll see plastered all around new 'McMansion' housing developments. Where is the "nature" in that? The only "natural" thing that appears to remain is the creek, and frankly, I'm surprised the powers that be haven't tried to remodel and "improve" that, as well. Furthermore, what about adults who bring kids of varying ages to the park without another adult along? Will there be separate playground areas for toddlers and older children? Will those areas be near enough to each other that one adult can keep an eye on kids in both areas at once? I am not a Martinez native, but I appreciate the history and small-town feel of Martinez, or at least the Martinez that used to exist before the City Council decided it wanted to make this town into a cookie-cutter version of Concord or Walnut Creek. It's too bad that's being lost to "progress."
p. mcmakin January 24, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I have been in and have seen what it looks like so far (yes, I snuck in). I think it looks terrible. There are fake "rock" walls all over the place; you know the kind, concrete or some substance colored mud-brown, with black lines etched through it to make it resemble individually stacked "rocks." If that's the City Council's idea of "natural," then someone needs to go back to school and take a remedial English course.
p. mcmakin January 24, 2012 at 11:23 PM
My grandson loves, or should I say loved, going to play at the park. The only thing we didn't care for was the fact that the sand play area was rather nasty (full of sticks and garbage) and the ends of the slides tended to gather puddles of water during the rainy season. But can you honestly tell me that you like fake 'stone' walls better than what was there? I agree that upgrading the bathrooms was a must. And redoing the picnic and barbecue areas was certainly a good idea. And yeah, the gazebo definitely looked like refurbishing was in order. Even making it ADA compliant, I get that. But tearing everything out and replacing it with fake stone walls and playground equipment that will "look like" logs and rocks? What in blazes is the matter with you people? Either it's real nature or it isn't. FAKES are NEVER preferable to the real thing; if you can't make a playground out of the real thing, then get the best quality fake thing you can afford. As for me and mine, we'll take brightly colored plastic over fake logs and rock walls any day of the week.
McG January 25, 2012 at 02:25 AM
You know what I hate about the idea of this community putting money into parks? Parks are supposed to be for children to play, but in Martinez, parks are dominated by homeless crazy people. “Hey kids, lets go play in the park, but watch out for that weirdo peeing in the jungle gym”. Our local law enforcement does nothing to stop them from loitering or should I say getting drunk and being crude. So it’s my opinion that putting money into Martinez parks is a complete waste of money. The only people who will benefit from this are the homeless creeps that are looking for a place to lay their dirty heads down. Get rid of the bums and then clean up the parks.
p. mcmakin January 25, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Actually, many of the crude drunks are NOT "homeless creeps," but your fellow citizens who may live just a block or two away from you. I personally know of at least three people who all have issues with alcohol and whose very issues with alcohol leads them to do things they'd never do when sober. Need examples? Urinating outdoors... Throwing up outdoors... Standing in the street screaming and cursing at family members because they were asked to cease drinking for the night... Sneaking onto the grounds of the public pool and going 'swimming' while fully clothed... Taking the dog for a walk in the park while also taking along enough beer to keep several "homeless creeps" very happy... I could go on but there's not much point because I suspect you don't think anyone acts that way except the aforementioned "weirdos" or "homeless crazy people." Sadly, you'd be wrong.
McG January 25, 2012 at 06:02 AM
All of your examples are of people breaking the law. These people are unfit to be around children. And that’s my point. The city needs to put money into enforcing laws that MOST cities in the United States enforce. So is this the type of community you want to live in? A community where families can't enjoy a park because some bum is talking to people who aren’t there. And people like you think that’s a beautiful thing. Now that’s sad.
p. mcmakin January 25, 2012 at 06:59 AM
No, my point was to illustrate to you that you cannot label someone as a problem simply because she or he may be homeless. Substance abuse and addiction know no boundaries. The local politician is just as likely to suffer from alcoholism as the homeless bum, wouldn't you agree? So sitting on a bench is not against any laws of which I am aware. Harrassing citizens, yes. Urinating in public, yes. Minding their own business (even if that includes talking to the imaginary people in their minds), no. Certainly, I want my grandchildren to be able to walk downtown without being harrassed. And yes, I think everyone should be able to enjoy our parks without being accosted or stumbling over someone who's publicly breaking the law and ruining the park for everyone else. I just don't think we should ban or look down on another person simply because we see him as "some bum."
Debi Thach March 01, 2012 at 08:43 AM
I agree, they're taking the woodsy atmosphere out of our favorite park. Most of us grew up in that park. It's not fair for them to rip it apart!!! Debi Grisham-Thach
Debi Thach March 01, 2012 at 08:49 AM
We loved Rankin Park just the way it was. Yes, that toilets needed help, but the rest of it was rustic, very popular, and now; unrecognizeable. I wanted my Grandchildren to see 'my' rankin park. We live in Utah now, but visit our hometown Martinez 2-3 times a year. I'll miss going to that park. We are very disappointed!!!!! Debi Thach

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