One of the Sacramento area’s historic park districts, the Fulton-El Camino Recreation and Park District, is presently celebrating its 55th anniversary.
The 38-acre Howe Park features many scenic views, including this view of Chicken Ranch Slough. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
And due to its age, the district, which is bounded by major traffic arteries with Arden Way to the south, Watt Avenue to the east, Auburn Boulevard to the north and Business 80 to a point where it joins Arden Way, has grown up with the community.
Bill Murray, park supervisor of the district, which features seven parks, including the 38-acre Howe Park, remembers when the area was a much different place.
“I remember when Fulton Avenue and Morse Avenue and Cottage (Way) and all these roads here were gravel roads,” said Murray, a 1969 graduate of Rio Americano High School. “When I was a kid, there were goats and sheep here (on the property that became Howe Park). It was a sheep ranch, basically. There was also a house near the corner of Cottage (Way) and Bell (Street). When I started working (for the district) here in 1978, this (property) was undeveloped. There weren’t any trees out here (besides) willow trees on one side of the pond. And there used to be a sign (at the pond) that (read), ‘No fishing, wading, swimming.’”
Mike Grace, general manager of the district, said that the district was formed as a result of the growth of the area from its rural roots.
Cottage Park at 2201 Cottage Way is shown on the day of its groundbreaking. / Photo courtesy, FECRPD
“This was a rural area,” Grace said. “You had horses, chickens, goats and sheep. It’s the typical story of how a city or community expands. You had the city of Sacramento and then you had the outlying area. Well, (the district was) in the close (part of the) outlying area (and) it was very popular to live out in the country. That’s where they came up with Town and Country Village. It was a town in the country outside the city. As property developed, you had people moving into the area. It was the early 1950s, the war was over, the economy was starting to build, people needed affordable housing and they moved into the suburbs. As people were moving into the area, they had recreational needs that weren’t being attended to by the county. The county’s focus was on large regional parks, but local recreation was not addressed. So, as the population grew, there was a need for recreational services.”
Although the district was established in 1956, its history dates back to Nov. 2, 1955, when a notice was officially filed with the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors for the creation of the Fulton-El Camino Park, Recreation and Parkway District, which was the district’s original name.
The initial board members of the district were: William G. Fritz, W. Thomas Holden, Betty M. Forry, Bidwell W. Jumel and M. Guy Fairchild., and Donald W. McMurchie served as the district’s legal counsel.
The first meeting of the district was held in the library of Cottage School at 2221 Morse Avenue on Feb. 2, 1956.
During the meeting, Fairchild was elected president, Forry was elected secretary-treasurer, and it was resolved that McMurchie would earn $50 per month.
Fulton-El Camino Recreation and Park District board members meet in this c. 1958 photograph. / Photo courtesy, FECRPD
During its more than half-century existence, the district, which developed its first parks under its first master plan, which was approved in April 1958, has grown to include 72.8 acres existing park and open space areas.
The district acquired its first property for the construction of a park in 1957. This property at the present day address of 3097 Cottage Way was developed into today’s Cottage Park.
Amenities of this 7.5-acre neighborhood park include a community center, the only remaining swimming pool of the district’s original, four pools (the Cottage Park pool was dedicated in May 1960), a children’s playground, tennis courts, picnic and barbecue areas and a natural water feature, known as Strong Ranch Slough.
Santa Anita Park
The second property acquired by the district for the development of a park was a 7.7-acre site, which became Santa Anita Park at 2000 Bell St.
This neighborhood park features such amenities as a section of a natural water feature known as Chicken Ranch Slough, a disc golf course, picnic and barbecue areas and an open play area.
- This flier advertises for the Northern California Duck Calling Championship, which was held at Cottage Park on Jan. 12, 1964. / Photo courtesy, FECRPD
The king of the district’s parks, Howe Park at 2201 Cottage Way, was constructed on the last park site acquired by the district during the 1950s. Property for this park, which is about 30 acres larger than the district’s second largest park, was purchased by the district in May 1959.
Amenities of this community park include the Richard T. Conzelmann Community Center, a natural water feature, which is also part of Chicken Ranch Slough, a ballfield, soccer field, tennis courts, a walking path, a picnic and barbecue area and a shade shelter.
The park is also home to the district office, which is located inside the community center.
Creekside Nature Area
The only property of the district that is not a developed park is the 1.9-acre Creekside Nature Area at 2641 Kent Ave.
This property was acquired by the district on June 27, 1963 and features its nature area with a natural water feature.
The history of the 4.3-acre Bellview Park at 2600 Howe Ave. dates back to November 1963, when the property of this park was acquired by the district.
This picnic shelter is among the many features of Bohemian Park at 3131 Wright St. / Photo courtesy, FECRPD
Attractions at this neighborhood park include a children’s play area, a basketball court and picnic and barbecue areas.
The 8.2-acre Bohemian Park at 3131 Wright St. is the district’s second largest park. Property for this neighborhood park was acquired in 1966.
Amenities of this park include a children’s play area, a basketball court, tennis courts, picnic and barbecue areas, a natural water feature and a shade shelter.
Property for today’s 5.2-acre Seely Park at 3000 Pope Ave. was acquired in November 1966.
This neighborhood park includes such amenities as a children’s playground, a splash park, a basketball court, barbecue and picnic areas and a shade shelter.
A history of public activities
In addition to providing facilities for recreation and leisure, the district has also consistently offered a wide variety of activities for people of all ages during its long history.
A sunset beautifies an evening at a ballfield at Howe Park. / Photo courtesy, FECRPD
Some of the past activities that seem to date themselves by mention alone occurred in the 1960s with Northern California Duck Calling Championships at Cottage Park and weekly district-sponsored “Charm and Grooming” classes with Jeanne Venables, Miss Sacramento of 1963, at Creekside School at 2641 Kent Drive.
Of course, a schedule of much more modern activities can be obtained through the district’s Web site www.fecrecpark.com or by calling (916) 927-3802.
The district now and into the future
In operating a more than half-century-old park district, Grace said that much emphasis is being placed on maintaining the district’s present facilities.
Children ride their bicycles at Howe Park during the park’s early years. / Photo courtesy, FECRPD
“The park district is 55 years old and, like a 55-year-old person, is starting to feel its age,” Grace said. “We went through the early years with the excitement of establishing and developing the parks and meeting the needs of the community when it was younger. (The district) is now middle aged and we’re starting to show the wear and tear of the years and we’re going into a phase where there (are) going to be more resources needed to maintain what we have rather than establishing new facilities. Our challenge is to honor the past in taking care of that which has been brought forth to this day. And we’ll look forward to the future by making sure the existing facilities are taken care of and we’ll try to stay current with new recreation trends and needs for new facilities.”