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Turlock park to be featured in inspirational documentary
donnelly documentary 1
Local filmmaker Brian Zarka shoots scenes for his documentary on the construction of the Childrens Play Park at Donnelly Park on Saturday. A free public screening of Zarkas documentary is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 6 at the Carnegie Arts Center.

A local filmmaker is hoping his documentary on the construction of the Children’s Play Park at Donnelly Park will motivate those in the community to go out and make a difference — no matter how old or young they may be.

Ceres resident and filmmaker Brian Zarka was approached last year by former Turlock Mayor Brad Bates. At the time, Bates told him about his daughter Augusta Bates and the work she did when she was just 10 years old to make her dream of constructing a child’s playground at Donnelly Park a reality.

“He was telling me about it and it just sounded really inspirational to me,” said Zarka. “It was a story worth sharing with as wide an audience as possible because the message is universal. It’s not just something that people in Turlock would be interested in hearing.”

The origin of the park began with an observation from then 10-year-old Augusta, who asked her father why there wasn’t a park in Turlock similar to the Children’s Play Park in Oakdale’s Dorada Park.

“Rather than just telling her ‘I don’t know,’ he told her that the Oakdale park was built by the community and that she could help do the same thing,” said Zarka. “Someone who was 10 years old believed that was possible and went to the community to make it possible and it happened.”

In what Zarka referred to as an “extraordinary” effort, Augusta was able raise enough money for the park in less than one year — and even had some funding left over. Thanks to community volunteers, the Children’s Play Park at Donnelly Park was built over the course of five days in 1998.

“People nowadays tend to rely on government or nonprofit organizations to change the communities for them, but I think people kind of underestimate themselves and don’t realize they have actually quite a bit of influence and power to do it themselves,” said Zarka. “I hope this film inspires people to tap into that part of themselves to go out and change their communities.”

Zarka said that over the past year, he has interviewed Augusta and Brad Bates, as well as different people who were involved with the project, including Augusta’s childhood friends, park volunteers, and City of Turlock employees.

“Because [Augusta] was 10, the City really got behind her and did whatever they could to make the process happen,” said Zarka. “They basically gave her and the community a step by step process on how to do it.”

Upon completion, Zarka said that his documentary will include interviews, archival videos and photos of the project, newspaper clippings from previous Turlock Journal articles, as well as recent footage from the park.

“The goal is really simple,” said Zarka. “I hope that it inspires people. The theme is making a difference at the community level, but I think this story can even inspire someone to do something else, whether it’s changing something about themselves for the better or making a difference at the international level.

“If this project just inspires a handful of people to go out and make things happen, I’ll be happy,” added Zarka.

A free public screening of Zarka’s documentary is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 6 at the Carnegie Arts Center, 250 N. Broadway Ave. A wine and cheese reception will precede the film. Following the public screening, the film will be available for viewing at