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Sikh community becomes first to ‘adopt’ a Turlock park
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The Sikh Community of Turlock poses for a picture along with Mayor Bublak, City Council members, City of Turlock staff members and other Turlock residents during a March 9 event to recognize the group's commitment to adopt Donnelly Park (Photo contributed).

Park clean-ups and the donation of items like benches, tables and playgrounds are a common result of the town’s generosity, but last weekend the Sikh Community of Turlock went above and beyond with the city’s first-ever adoption of a park.

During a special ceremony, the Sikh Community of Turlock became the first group to join the City’s Adopt-A-Park program, volunteering a year of service to Donnelly Park which began with a clean-up event Saturday.

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Surjit Malhi of the Sikh Community of Turlock unveils a sign during a special event held March 9 recognizing the group’s commitment to “adopt” Donnelly Park in 2019 (Photo contributed).

The Turlock City Council implemented the Adopt-A-Park program last May, giving local community groups the opportunity to be recognized for their efforts in keeping City parks clean. While many organizations, including fraternities, sororities, services providers and businesses, have volunteered their time and resources over the years to help maintain a vibrant park system in Turlock, Saturday’s event marked the first “formal” adoption of a park under the new program, parks department staff services analyst Juan Vargas said.

“We’ve always had good partnerships with groups who do one-day events like cleanups and recurring projects, but we wanted to take it a step further and do something like what other cities have where a group adopts a trail or highway,” Vargas said. “The Sikh Community of Turlock was the first to do it.”

To kickoff their newfound adoption of Donnelly Park, the Sikh Community gave it a makeover and filled two large dump trucks with debris, painted benches and tables, cleaned up graffiti, disinfected the playgrounds and raked the lake.

The group has committed to complete four service projects at the park, which can be more clean-up events or projects, like the addition of a new seating area or other donations.

To see the Sikh Community of Turlock come forward and adopt Donnelly Park — an effort spearheaded by Turlock resident Surjit Malhi — was no surprise to Vargas, he said.

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Surjit Malhi, Turlock Mayor Amy Bublak and Steve Backus help out with painting picnic tables at Donnelly Park as part of the Sikh Community of Turlock’s first Adopt-A-Park project day (Photo contributed).

“He does so much for our community, and not even what he does for the city is a fraction of what he does as a whole. It doesn’t surprise me at all that it was Surjit that came in here and wanted to do this,” he said, adding that the Malhi and the group already “adopted” the portion of Highway 99 that runs through Turlock from Lander Avenue to Taylor Road. “He told me, ‘When people see the Sikh community, they see turbans and a certain attire — we’re American. We’re here to be good people,’ and they’ve made a good name for themselves.”

While the Sikh Community is the first group to formally adopt one of the city’s parks, they join a long list of community members who have donated their time and funding.

During the summer of 2017, Turlock Sunrise Rotary worked for six days to renovate the Children’s Play Park at Donnelly Park, including resealing the wooden structure and replacing damaged tiles that adorn the play area’s walkway. The service club also played a vital role in the playground’s original construction over 20 years ago. In 2014, a donation of $35,000 by the Swanson Family and Pet Extreme led to the creation of the Swanson Centennial Dog Park off Countryside Drive, and annually, Love Turlock events have drawn dozens of volunteers to parks around the City to work on clean up and maintenance projects.

There are over 25 parks in Turlock, according to Vargas, and he would like to see other groups get involved and join the Sikh Community as members of the Adopt-A-Park program. There are three levels of sponsorship available through the program, ranging from one-day clean-ups to the donation of structures, and, of course, the actual adoption of a park with a commitment of four services projects a year.

Those who formally adopt a park receive recognition on the City’s social media pages, as well as a ceremony in their honor that includes the unveiling of an official Adopt-A-Park sign with their group’s name on it.

“It’s nice seeing the community take ownership over what’s truly theirs...the City cleans the parks and runs certain things, but the amenities out there are for the people so it’s nice seeing them step up take ownership for the parks as much as we do,” Vargas said. “We work year-round to make our parks look as good as they can, and with the help of the community it helps us stretch it that much farther.”

Those interested joining the Adopt-A-Park program can contact Vargas at 209-668-6013.