Everyone knows that Mooney Grove has been looking a little tired lately, and the drought hasn’t exactly helped. Because of a Tulare County initiative to save water, Tulare County Parks and Recreation has severely cut back watering, turning the grounds brown and the lagoon bright green. One group hopes to turn that around. The Real Mooney Grove Project plans to start renovations as soon as they have the funds.
Just since June, Mary Bryant has attracted 245 friends on her Mooney Grove Facebook page and has enlisted contractor Jessie Snow to do the construction. The group’s first priority is to reroof the boathouse. Snow built the boathouse back in 1986 and says the roof is several years past due for repairs. Standing in the boathouse, sunlight shines through the slats of the roof and in some sections the shingles are stripped away. “It won’t last another wet winter,” says Snow, who also wants to rebuild the sides of the boathouse.
Another priority is reconditioning the concessions stand, which is slated for demolition in the county’s 20-year plan for Mooney Grove. Neil Pilegard, head of Parks and Recreation, said that the stand was never profitable enough to be reliably leased. He also said that it would take too much money to bring it up to code.
Not so, says Bryant. She has gotten the estimates and plans on doing all the renovations at no cost to the county. Bryant said that the concession stand could easily be an asset to the park. “The rent was too high and on top of that the county wanted a percent of the sales of food.” She suggested that the county not try to make money off the concession stand but just consider it an amenity of the park to attract more visitors. The concession stand could also be rented out for birthday parties or weddings.
Snow said that the 1960s construction is solid and if it were on anyone else’s property they wouldn’t tear it down. The concession stand needs a good cleaning, a few windows replaced and an updated kitchen. “I want to visit Mooney Grove and buy a hamburger or eat some Mexican food,” said Snow.
Besides tearing down the concession stand, Parks and Recreation plans on filling in the koi pond, and closing the main entrance because of heavy traffic on Mooney Boulevard. The main entrance will be moved to a safer side road, Ave 272. This is all part of their 20-year master plan for Mooney Grove that still needs approval. They also hope to move the Veterans Memorial (good luck finding it now) to a more visible spot and include a statue of a cannon along with the names of those from Tulare County who died serving. A possible explanation for getting rid of some of the old favorites in the park is that it would free up the maintenance money to go to the historical museum.
The 20-year plan has been kept somewhat of a mystery this summer when it was originally scheduled to be presented to the board. According to John Hess, senior administrative analyst, “Regarding the Mooney Grove Master Plan, the document is currently being reviewed by staff and will be presented to the board of supervisors for their consideration in December 2014. Prior to presenting the final master plan to the board, county staff will be soliciting public input on the plan’s draft recommendations.”
These comments will then be incorporated into the final version of the master plan to be considered by the board. The county will be conducting two public workshops in October and November 2014 to receive this input. “
Mooney Grove is in Supervisor Phil Cox’s district and he says that he has fond memories of the park growing up and would like to see it restored.
Phase two of the group’s renovation project includes fixing the dance floor, rehabilitating the koi pond and rebuilding the iconic low-rise rock wall that runs the length of many of Mooney’s Gove interior roads. Bryant also wants to put a new fence around the entire park to discourage the vandalism happening now. Snow envisions putting solar panels on the boathouse’s new roof that will power the lights and run the pumps for the koi pond and lagoon to keep the water fresh.
Bryant’s long-term goal is to bring back a childhood favorite, the carousel. The original Mooney Grove carousel is now well-loved in Hanford’s Civic Center Park. Bryant plans on purchasing an old set of horses, refurbishing them and rebuilding a carousel.
Bryant has obtained her group’s nonprofit status and is ready to start fundraising. She plans on visiting all the service groups such as Rotary and Lions. Bryant and Snow will be presenting their official renovation plan at the September 23 supervisors’ meeting.
On October 25, the group will be holding a Halloween and Fall Festival fundraiser. Festivities will center around arbor nine at Mooney Grove and will include a bounce house, kiddy train and a live band set up on the dance floor. Times for the event are to be announced. To stay informed on what’s new with the group and their upcoming events, friend them on their Facebook page.
If you want donate, send checks to: The Real Mooney Grove Project, 3143 Brickfield Ave., Tulare, CA 93274; or call the project’s organizer, Mary Bryant, at 859-8884.