The Carmichael Recreation and Park District is presently celebrating its 65th anniversary, as the district was organized on Oct. 29, 1945.
The Carmichael Recreation and Park District was established in 1945. Above, is a photograph of the cover of the district’s 1973, 20-year master plan. / Photo courtesy of CRPD
Let’s play ball
In tracking the roots of the district, all signs lead to the sport of baseball, as the district’s beginnings can be pinpointed to the simple need for a local baseball facility.
Considering that Sacramento has been known as a baseball city throughout the majority of its existence, the district’s establishment through baseball is quite fitting.
The district’s connection with baseball begins with the name, Dan Donovan.
While residing in Carmichael, Donovan was seeking a location where his local baseball team could play its games.
Donovan, who is also known for establishing Carmichael’s first fire department, serving as the fire department’s first chief and operating a bar at Fair Oaks Boulevard and Garfield Avenue, led the drive to have a baseball field built in part of what is today’s Carmichael Park.
This baseball field, which had once been only a dream, became a reality for Donovan, who was part of the 1946 team that won the U.S.-Canadian Non-Professional Baseball Tournament in Wichita, Kan.
Carmichael Park was purchased in separate parcels and by the early 1960s, the park had been expanded to 38 acres.
This now-abandoned pool was in operation at Carmichael Park from 1952 to 2004. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Carmichael’s poolOne of the most popular attractions in the park’s history was its 50-foot by 100-foot swimming pool, which was constructed in 1952.
Originally, the pool featured both low and high diving boards and was accompanied by a nearby wading pool.
Unfortunately for the community, use of the pool was discontinued in 2004. The district, however, is exploring avenues for acquiring funding to replace the pool.
The petting zooEarly visitors of Carmichael Park may also remember another now-absent feature of the park – a petting zoo that was located on the site of the present day group picnic rental facility. The petting zoo included such animals as goats, a pig, a sheep, rabbits and chickens.
Today, the park, which CRPD Administrator Jack Harrison described as “Carmichael’s Central Park,” features five softball diamonds, six lighted tennis courts, a one-acre, off-leash dog park, a lighted basketball court, a pair of playgrounds, a public picnic shelter and a band shell, which serves as the site of free summer concerts. The park is also the site of a popular Easter Egg Hunt, which is held annually on the day prior to Easter.
Carmichael Park, which began through the construction of a baseball field, is presently home to five softball diamonds. / Photo courtesy of CRPD
Among the oldest buildings in the park is the community clubhouse, which is available for rent and is used for community organization meetings, district board meetings, weddings and receptions.
Other structures located at the park include the district’s administration building and the Veterans Memorial Building, which is used for local veteran gatherings, small-sized meetings, classes and a preschool program.
Del Campo Park
The district added the second of its now 14 park sites when it acquired the property for Del Campo Park in Fair Oaks in 1971. This was also the year that the district hired its first full-time administrator.
Ross Norberg, who has been employed as a maintenance worker for the district since 1976, said that Del Campo Park, which was developed in 1979, was nothing but a large lawn-covered area until about 1990.
Today, this 21.6-acre park, which is located near Del Campo High School, features a soccer field and a playground.
In addition to Del Campo Park, the district acquired 10 park sites during the 1970s.
These sites range in size from the one-acre Bird Track Park on Pheasant Road in Fair Oaks to Carmichael’s 13.6-acre Jan Drive Park, which is scheduled to open sometime next year.
A popular feature of Carmichael Park is its one-acre, off-leash dog park. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Among the current CRPD park sites, which were not previously mentioned, are the 9.4-acre O’Donnell Heritage Park (property acquired in 1974) on Barrett Road in Carmichael, the 7.4-acre Cardinal Oaks Park (1974) on Cardinal Court at Kenneth Avenue in Carmichael, the three-acre Glancy Oaks Park (1977) on Sunny Lane in Carmichael and the three-acre Patriots Park (1976) on Palm Avenue, off Dewey Drive, in Fair Oaks.
One of the district’s most treasured acquisitions occurred in 1984, with its addition of the former La Sierra High School. This 37-acre site includes a pair of gymnasiums, soccer fields, Little League baseball fields, the Chautauqua Playhouse, the Sacramento Fine Arts Center and about 170,000 square feet of private rental space.
CRPD Park Maintenance Supervisor Ron Shilliday, who spends about 95 percent of his employment hours for the district at the La Sierra site, said that the former school serves as a great asset for the community.
“The enjoyment of all the facilities and the recreation for anyone, no matter what their age, (at the La Sierra site) is amazing,” Shilliday said. “You can enjoy the theater or the arts center or the many programs that are over there from chair yoga to Little League baseball to soccer to dance. On a good day when you have volleyball, baseball, theater and a wedding reception, there’s no parking to be found. It’s a great place for the community and the people who work here. It keeps us hopping to keep people happy.”
Also unique among the district’s sites are the 17.2-acre Schweitzer Grove Park and the 3.5-acre Charles C. Jensen Botanical Garden.
Schweitzer Grove Park, which is located at Sumter and Hussey drives, next to Albert Schweitzer Elementary School in Carmichael, is the site of a disc golf course and walking trails with five entrances.
The name Schweitzer Grove Park was selected 39 years ago through CRPD’s “Name a Park Contest.”
According to the May 27, 1971 edition of The Sacramento Union, the winners of the contest, which also provided the names Del Campo Park and Bird Track Park, were: Annette Ackerman, Kathryn Confer, Susan Emerson, Nancy Figenbaum, Kim Walker, Kevin Williams and Karen Zymwaht.
Jewel of the district
Undoubtedly a jewel of the park district, the Charles C. Jensen Botanical Garden at 8520 Fair Oaks Blvd. features a wide variety of plants and trees, manicured lawns, walkways, benches and a pair of bridges over a small creek bed.
The garden, which has been featured in a variety of newspapers, including the New York Times, is named after its founder, Charles C. Jensen, who placed the garden’s initial plants and trees at the site in 1958.
Jensen passed away in 1974 at the age of 80 and through the efforts of the Charles C. Jensen Botanical Garden, Inc., which was formed by a group of concerned, local citizens, his property was saved from being subdivided.
Two years later, CRPD took over the ownership of the property and through the assistance of the Friends of the Jensen Botanical Garden, the garden is maintained on a consistent basis.
As a longtime asset of the community, the district has offered many activities that are documented in the district’s archives.
Carmichael Park was the first park of the Carmichael Recreation and Park District. Today, the district consists of 14 park sites. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Among the district’s earlier activities mentioned in these archives are the following 1970s activities: a trip to a San Francisco Giants game in 1970, a Mini Bike Day on March 11, 1972, a trip to Marine World on Aug. 9, 1972 and square dancing evenings by the Carmichael Park pool.
And of course, the district has provided the sites for many league baseball and softball games, swimming competitions, tennis matches and other sporting events.
Continuing its mission to “satisfy the recreational needs of the community by providing a wide range of facilities and opportunities to enrich the quality of life,” CRPD recently published its fall/winter 2010-11 activity guide, which is available at the district office at 5750 Grant Ave. in Carmichael Park or at the La Sierra Recreation Office at 5325 Engle Road in Carmichael.
Information regarding district-sponsored activities can also be obtained through the Web site www.carmichaelpark.com or by calling (916) 485-5322.
CRPD Administrative Analyst Lee Ann Yarber said that for a parks and recreation district that has grown from a site with one baseball field to 183 acres on 14 sites, the district’s current anniversary is special.
“We’re very proud of (the district’s) accomplishments,” Yarber said. “In recent years, we’ve opened two parks (and) we’ve got another one scheduled to (open) in 2011. We just keep evolving and continuing to grow.”