For years, the lot on McCarthy Street and Alvarado Street had been barren.
Clad with a homely basketball court and a dry field, it seemed far-fetched the spot could ever become what had once held such promise.
Build it, and they will come.
On July 30, the newly built McCarthy Street Park opened to the public after first breaking ground seven months ago. Its grand opening and ribbon cutting took place on Aug. 8.
With such features as a climbing wall, handball court, playground, picnic area, dual use stage/skate spot, and a splash pad complete with a 90-gallon bucket water tower, it’s quickly become the summer hotspot.
Mike Chambless, management services director and assistant city manager for Hollister, said the renovated grass is next to come.
“We will be opening the grass once it fills in and is established,” he said, revealing renovation of the park had long been a top priority. “The city always wanted to do something out there, but we were prevented for years from putting the grass back because of the drought.”
But with a clear vision, things became possible.
Mickie Luna can recall Ray Friend asking for her help in bringing this vision to fruition more than three years ago.
Hollister city councilmembers at the time, the two mulled ideas on how to allocate funds from a near-$700,000 state grant the council decided to use for city parks.
“Ray said if we’re going to spend any funds, we should look at the San Andreas School park in the McCarthy street area,” Luna recalled. “He really took a lead because that was his district. I said of course I would help—I know people that live in the area and I’ll give them a call.”
Luna did a review of the neighborhood, visiting the decade-old homes on Recht Street, and found many original owners had moved back after their children moved out.
“It was no longer the families, it was the elders; it was the grandparents,” she said.
While perusing the neighborhood, Luna came across a group of older men in a garage playing cards and dominos.
“I asked them, ‘How would you like it if you had a park and you had a table, a seating area where you could get out in the sun and the air and play the games that you play?’ They said, ‘Oh my gosh Mickie, but that’s only a dream,’” she recalled.
It was then when she realized a renovated park would go beyond the needs of youth.
Chambless said plans for the park were addressed at a community city council meeting in February 2017. Subsequent meetings found that funding and compromise among council members were needed to push the project forward.
“Councilperson Ray Friend was the park’s biggest champion,” Chambless said.
Though the city had a grant, and Chambless secured initial funding from the council, more money was necessary to complete the nearly $2.4 million project.
“Councilperson Luna pushed the idea of adding funding to complete all aspects of the park through the council,” Chambless added.
The city council secured the park’s architectural plans and dollar estimate with a four to one vote.
“Ray really pushed for the McCarthy Park,” Luna said of the council’s vote. “I really pushed for it, and so did Karson [Klauer]. Jim Gillio came at the end, but he supported it, too.”
Though the expenses of its features was a topic of debate, Luna said the park was ultimately created with its original vision—and with every feature voted upon.
“It was said that we didn’t have the money, but I am retired from the City of Hollister—I retired from the Finance Department—I said I would find them the money. We already had a state grant…and we’ve always had a park reserve fund,” she said.
Luna said what kept her going was the memory of the men she spoke to, playing games in the garage.
“I’d always remembered going back to and listening to those viejitos that were there who said, ‘Es un sueño; it’s a dream, Mickie.’ And I said, ‘No, dreams come true.’”
But Luna is quick to deflect from all the credit in making the dream come true.
“It wasn’t only the city councilmembers, but our representatives that represent the Parks and Rec,” she said, praising Richard Perez and Jose Fernandez, who serve on the recreation commission.
Chambless also credited BFS Landscape Architects for designing the facility; Perma-green Landscaping for building the facility; Kimley-Horn for providing construction management, as well as his boss, City Manager Bill Avera, for being “extremely supportive and generous with my time which allowed me to closely supervise the project.”
Former city council member and current San Benito County District Supervisor for District 4, Jim Gillio said he is pleased to see the final product.
“I am very happy to see that all of the city team members’ hard work planning, applying for grants, and ultimately constructing the park have come to fruition,” he said. “The city team members deserve a ton of credit in the final build and implementation of this multi-faceted park.”
Though its designs and funding were not originally agreed upon by the city council, all members agree its execution was the best for this community.
“It turned out to be a beautiful park,” Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said. “It’s exactly what was planned for to get something onto the other side of town.”
Once the grass at McCarthy Street Park fills in and becomes established, Chambless said the Hollister Recreation Department has plans to host movies in the park next summer.
And he’s excited to announce future park projects that are in the works.
“Ground should break soon in the new park at the Allendale development,” Chambless said. “Plans have also been approved for a new park with a sport court in the northwest corner of the city (off Buena Vista Road), planning is wrapping up on the expansion of Valley View Park, and Park Hill will be getting a new restroom soon.”
He also said park plans for the Leatherback site and the lot next to Fire Station 2 have been completed.
“We have applied for $16 million in grants to complete them,” he said.
Luna is confident the McCarthy Street Park was worth her efforts and city’s funds.
“There’s almost 100 people and children that enjoy that park on a daily basis,” she said.
And a recent phone call reconfirmed the park’s significance to the former councilmember.
“It was from a granddaughter who said, ‘You talked to my grandpa, you talked about how he could sit in the air with his friends and play cards,’” Luna recalled. “She said she walked her grandpa over there and he took his hat off, put it down to his chest and said, ‘It’s the dream park.’”
McCarthy Street Parkis located at 133 McCarthy St. in Hollister.