Friday, February 19, 2010

Mavis Stouffer Park

When I first moved to Ripon, it was for simple reasons, like good schools, low crime, and a hint of charm. Little did I know about the glory of Mavis Stouffer Park.

Mavis Stouffer Park (commonly known as Stouffer Park), looks unassuming from the road. Off of Manley Drive, it appears flat with some gazebos, softball fields, a playground, and a bocce ball court. Once you follow the winding road, it reveals an almost magical area.

Today is quite overcast and cold. Despite this, I rode my bike to the park, on a mission to write a blog about its awesomeness. I chose a good day, because the park was free of sun bathers and dog walkers. It was just me, with my camera, and a group of German Baptists, playing volleyball near the softball fields.

Even though I say from the entrance, Stouffer Park is unassuming, it does have bocce ball. For a while I had a difficult time figuring out what this court was. I thought maybe shuffle board or some type of croquet. I looked it up at the City of Ripon's website, and discovered bocce ball. Danny says he is pretty sure only old Italian men play bocce ball. He is probably correct, but I sure would like to play it someday. Next to the bocce ball court, beyond the fence, is the secretive Swiss club…which is not part of Stouffer Park. I have never been in the Swiss club, nor have I played bocce ball, but I feel cultured when I am in this section of the park.

Beyond one of the softball fields, is the Clarence Smit Museum. I tried to go in today, but it was closed. It is open from some silly hours like 10 am to 12:30 pm on Saturdays only. I peaked in the windows and saw some old silver bowls and an antique looking book. So I continued my museum investigation online. The Clarence Smit Museum is the run by the Ripon Historical Society and has displays of community artifacts. Clarence Smit was the city administrator when the park first opened. One of these Saturdays, after a rip roaring game of bocce ball, I’ll have to check out the museum.

Once the paved road starts to wind down and around the park, to the left is a lower level of grass. There are picnic tables with a view into the golf course, and trees lining one side. Ill often see bounce houses put up in this area during the summer for some child’s birthday party.

The road then turns to the right and you see it. The magical section of Stouffer Park: the river. The Stanislaus River runs right along the park. Hidden by a canopy of trees, you only see glimpses of it. At times you come along a stretch of openness usually blocked off by a small picket fence. It looks picturesque.

Down a ways is the third tier of land. This is probably the most exciting section of Stouffer Park to me. There are wood beam steps surrounded by ivy, leading down to another picket fence, (that surely doesn’t keep the high schoolers from getting past it) with a lovely view of the river. This section of the park feels nice and cool on a hot summer day, the combination of the water and shade from the river and trees create a nice atmosphere. I thought about hopping the fence and getting closer to the river, but then I remembered, I’m an adult now and fences are put in places for a reason.

Past my favorite part is a giant gazebo, which apparently can be reserved for birthday parties. Beyond the gazebo is a sand volley ball court. I followed the dirt path with my bike and came across an Eagle Scout project. It’s an orienteering course. It looks a little complicated to me, but the sign says all you need is a compass to play. “Advanced use of the compass course game includes running instead of walking, which is very useful when training for long orienteering courses.” The Eagle Scout doesn’t have to worry about me running. I would like to play this “game” simply because it’s a puzzle. At the bottom of the sign it says, “This course was built by Eagle Scout ______, add the letters on the course markers to reveal his name.” I don’t know much about Eagle Scouts besides that Danny was about 3 badges away from becoming one and that they like compasses, but whoever this mysterious scout is, I appreciate his addition to the park as I now have something to do after I visit the museum.

Along the dirt path are various entrances to the river. There are two rope swings hanging off a tree. During the summer there are always some kiddos using them. I’ll probably sit out of the rope swing adventure. Can’t get too crazy. On one of the trees is some graffiti. Its looks like a woman in a dress, it sort of resembles the lady on public restroom signs. So the park isn’t perfect, at least it’s not something offensive.

The dirt road comes to a slightly eerie part of the park. The trees connect to make a dark tunnel. It resembles something out of the Wizard of Oz. In fact, if I had my dog in my bike basket, I would have felt like Dorothy.

At the very end of the path is an entrance to the woods. There are small hiking trails beyond the gate that we sometimes take our dogs on, along with a nice bike bridge over the river. This is not part of Stouffer Park, so I’ll have to save my experiences with it for another blog.

As I’m leaving the park, I see an old man walking down to the lower tier. He is wearing a camouflage fishing hat, has a basket in one hand, and a cane in the other. We smile and say hello. I was wondering what he was doing with the basket. Was he going to have lunch? Did he know about some secret fruit tree that I was oblivious to? Then I saw him bend over and pick up a piece of trash. My heart was happy. This old man, perhaps an ex eagle scout, perhaps an Italian bocce ball player, loves the park as much as I do. So now I have one other task after I play bocce ball, visit the museum, and complete the orienteering course, I will pick up some trash and take care of my magical Mavis Stouffer Park.

City of Ripon. Mavis Stouffer Park (n.d.). History of Mavis Stouffer Park. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from

1 comment:

  1. I love it. It makes me feel like I've been there myself!