Fate of Backesto Park bocce courts up in the air

Bocce courts in Backesto Park

Bocce courts in Backesto Park have become overgrown and dilapidated.

The fate of three bocce courts in the Northside’s Backesto Park came up for discussion this evening as part of ongoing discussions of improvements to the park. The courts were renovated a little over 10 years ago, with a traditional natural oyster shell surface. At the time these were the only free public bocce courts in San Jose, although courts have been added in a couple of other city parks since then. The courts were initially tended by a dedicated group of players in the Northside Bocce Club, but after a few years several of the players dropped out due to advancing age, and the courts were not maintained. Now weeds and moss grow from the cracked and uneven courts, and few players come to use them.

Now the city has some hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on capital improvements to Backesto Park (but barely a dime for maintenance) and with the bocce courts fallen into disuse, the possibility of replacing them with some other amenity that would benefit more users had come up for consideration.

At tonight’s meeting, hosted by District 3 councilman Sam Liccardo and his staff, close to two dozen bocce players and enthusiasts came to show support for retaining the bocce courts, possibly with some improvements. The diversity of the participants was encouraging: There were parishioners from the nearby Holy Cross church, a representative from an Italian-American heritage organization, and a coach/educator connected to Special Olympics, among others all interested in using the courts.

The bulk of the discussion revolved around making the courts more accessible. Currently the key to the locked gate to the courts (and a set of bocce balls) can be borrowed from one of two local businesses, Bronco’s Restaurant or Chiaramonte’s Deli, but there’s no signs saying so, and you’d only know how to get the key if you already know how to get the key. Many participants suggested opening the gates during the day and locking them each night, but nobody proposed who would actually do the locking and unlocking, and nobody volunteered to take the job themselves.

Liccardo earned my respect at the end of the meeting when he pointed out that whatever improvements are made with the available capital money, maintenance will only be possible with volunteer help, and that real commitments from individuals or organizations for that maintenance will be needed before investing in refurbishing the courts makes sense.

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