February 14, 2012

Play Date: Victory Park

A friend once sent me a text message: “Do you know if any of the parks around here have bucket swings?” I could think of one. Maybe two. But that was it – and not because there aren’t more bucket swings in Stockton.

It’s just that, short of going and hoping the best, there isn’t a really easy way to find out which of Stockton’s more than 60 parks has exactly what you’re looking for, be it a slide or a soccer field. So here’s Play Date, a series of little guides to the area’s parks and play areas.

This week: Victory Park

Sorry, guys. No bucket swings.

The Basics | Victory Park
Location: At Pershing and Argonne in Stockton
Type: Community
Size: About 27.5 acres
Amenities:  Home to the Haggin Museum, the park features a playground (for big kids) and tot lot (for the littler ones) with slides, bars, and – this is cool – a mini climbing wall. There are ponds with ducks and turtles; group picnic areas and barbecue pits; lots of benches with plenty of shade; two lighted softball fields; Two lighted tennis courts; a swimming pool and restrooms. All along the park’s perimeter is a sidewalk that’s perfect (and popular) for walking and jogging.
A little history: The Victory Park site was gifted to the City in 1924. In 2009, when the park’s ponds were drained for maintenance, ducks – almost 100 of them -  were relocated to Swenson Park. (Some fish and turtles were moved too). They seem to have found their way back.
Play Date: Haul out the jogging stroller for a Saturday-morning run. When you’re finished, find a raspado cart ($1 per cone) and an empty bench.
(Source: City of Stockton)

This one reminds you that you live in a city.
Where I grew up, in Southern California, there were annual field trips to the Natural History Museum, followed by picnics in the park where pigeons convened to tussle over our scraps of sandwich bread and potato chips.

Victory Park reminds me of that a little bit.

This isn’t a park in the sense of a refuge or a hideaway. It’s park as community center and civic hub. It is a fantastic place to be - but maybe not if you’re looking for a quiet afternoon on a lazy weekend.

You’ll be sharing space with far more people than you would at, say, a neighborhood park: Joggers running up and down the Haggin Museum steps, walkers who invite you to pet their dogs, families gathering for weddings in the lovely rose garden.

There might be a political rally, a pageant, a festival.

There will definitely be a bounce house.

It’s chaotic – but the good kind, the kind that makes me really happy.

And I happen to think that feeding ducks in a public park is an essential formative experience. I’ll let you in on something, though: They’re not interested in your leftover Goldfish crackers. Don’t even bother.

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