Local News

Saturday, Aug 25 2012 07:46 PM

New Rosedale park a hit

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    By Shelby Mack / The Californian

    Kevin, Aaron and Noah Hanson play in fountains at Polo Community Park on the first day that the park was open on Saturday afternoon.

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    By Shelby Mack / The Californian

    Edgar Montayo crawls through the jungle gym on the first day that Polo Community Park was open on Saturday afternoon.

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    By Shelby Mack / The Californian

    Austin Watts climbs up the slide at the new playground on the opening day of Polo Community Park on Saturday afternoon.

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BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer aboessenkool@bakersfield.com

The North of the River Recreation and Park District opened Polo Community Park Saturday, and it was a highly anticipated event, with thousands of people braving the heat to break in the new baseball and football fields, splash in the spray park and climb on the new playground equipment.

Construction on the park, at the corner of Noriega and Old Farm roads northwest of Bakersfield, started in 2010. It's the largest North of the River park to date.

The playground and covered picnic area, with a dozen long picnic tables, have been open since last fall, but the playing fields have up until now been fenced off to give the grass a chance to establish itself, said North of the River General Manager Dave McArthur. McArthur estimated that up to 4,500 people attended Saturday's opening, including parents and friends of the approximately 1,000 kids who play in North of the River's youth football league. The football teams held a series of scrimmages throughout the day.

Besides the picnic area, spray park and playground, the 40-acre park has four softball, one baseball and seven football / soccer fields, said J.D. Grissom, assistant park and recreation director for North of the River. There's also a concession stand, and a community building could be added later, if more funding becomes available, McArthur said.

The agency went all out for the opening, with water slides, a bounce house, live music from an '80s cover band and a petting zoo with rabbits, ponies, a goat and pot-bellied pig.

Angela Hanson said her family has been eagerly anticipating its opening ever since they saw construction beginning in 2010.

"Six years ago, we knew a park was coming," she said. "I thought it would never get done."

But she and her family were determined to wait it out, she said. When they moved houses in 2010, they didn't go far -- they just relocated across the street and are still within easy walking distance of the park. On Saturday, Kevin Hanson was playing with the couple's kids in the spray park.

"It's nice to have it right here. The kids will get to grow up here," Angela said. "It just offers everything."

The park cost roughly $6 million to build, McArthur said. It was funded through a $1 million state grant for youth sports facilities, and the rest came from developer fees from the housing developments that have sprung up in the area.

"People waited for a long time for it to be open," said Lisa Walker, recreation supervisor for North of the River. Walker said so many people showed up Saturday that the park's two lots filled up and visitors' cars lined the streets. "The public was so thankful that we offered everything free so we could have a special day."

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