City pushing forward on downtown art park

The location of the proposed art park is on Main Street between Pacific Ace Hardware and the Yolo Pharmacy. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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For the past 20 years there has been a vision of creating an exhibiting arts and performance park in the center of downtown on Main Street. However, the city-owned lot between Pacific Ace Hardware and Yolo Pharmacy has remained vacant except for some bushes, a couple of trees, a bench and the annual community piano.

At the Jan. 18 Winters City Council meeting, council was presented with Resolution 2022-10 recommending approval of a Rural Recreation and Tourism (RRT) grant proposal written on behalf of the city by Valerie Whitworth with the assistance of City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa.

Whitworth, who with her late husband Michael Barbour, sold the city the lot almost 20 years ago, along with architectural plans, after the city expressed interest in making it into an exhibit art park.

Then things stalled.

In recent years, community members, city staff and The Participation Gallery have worked to raise funding to complete the project. Last September, a matching AARP grant application sought $271,000 but was unsuccessful. The current RRT grant proposal is seeking $300,000 for park improvements.

Whitworth estimates the cost of building out the park to be $476,700 which would include previously earmarked American Rescue Plan funds of $75,000, repurposed Community Design Grant funds of $100,000 and $1,700 from Winters Soroptimists.

If the RRT grant is approved there would be funding available to build out the currently envisioned park.

Whitworth was credited by council and members of the public for her considerable efforts in moving the project forward.

Community member Woody Fridae congratulated Whitworth, adding that the Winters Rotary Club is standing by to assist by volunteering labor and material donations. Rotary President Gar House echoed Fridae’s offer of Rotary Club support.

John Pickerel, owner of the Buckhorn Steakhouse, called the proposed park a “charmed asset” that will enhance walkability and real estate values in the downtown area.

“I throw my support 100 percent behind this and offer any help you might decide I can be of,” Pickerel said.

Community member Kate Laddish posed a question of process and inquired if the city would be locked into a name and design if council were to pass the resolution. She hoped there would be additional opportunities for public discussions around naming the park, the park’s design and features it may offer.

Trepa responded to Laddish’s concern noting the concept had been presented at two past public meetings and that the grant application was written to include as much leeway as possible. She said naming the park was not part of the application and added that the park’s final plan must still go before the Planning Commission.

The vision to develop the park includes building an outdoor covered stage for live performances and use as an art classroom, connecting water and electricity, design of a low water use garden, planting trees and overall creating an artist park.

Council unanimously approved the resolution and voiced their strong support and desire to get the project completed.

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