What would you do if the parks in your hometown became so tired and rundown that no one wanted to play there? For the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, this scenario will never play out as long as they can do something about it.
For the better part of a year, this federally recognized tribe has been on a mission to restore and overhaul all the dilapidated parks and recreational space in the small, tight-knit towns that surround their reservation in Amador County—a historical, mineral-rich area of Northern California that was once the Promised Land for miners and fortune seekers during the Gold Rush era.
The Amador County Park Project is being bankrolled by matched funding between the residents of Amador County and the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians, owners of the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort. To date, tribal donations have amounted to nearly $485,000, and the community has kicked in about $41,000.
Rich Hoffman, CEO of the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort, explains why this beautification project is so important to this small Miwuk band. “Tribal members grew up in Amador County enjoying these parks, so when the Tribal Council noticed that the county didn’t have the resources to maintain them, the tribe decided it would make a commitment to ensure that everyone would be able to enjoy them.”
Apparently, giving back to their community is not just a one-time event for the Jackson Rancheria Miwuks. According to the Sacramento Press, it is a founding tenet of the tribe, which is “dedicated to developing projects that not only enhance the tribe’s ability to remain self-reliant, but also reflect a commitment to be a good neighbor.”
In his personally written updates to local newspapers, Adam Dalton, the son of Margaret Dalton, the tribe’s first leader, is quick to point out that the project couldn’t be accomplished without the help of an army of local residents. More than 150 volunteers have stepped forward with food and water for workers, equipment donations, building materials and precious man-hours. It’s a community-wide effort reminiscent of 19th-century barn-raising days.
One community volunteer, a longtime resident of Volcano who acted as the liaison between his town and the Miwuks, said the renovation of their park resurrected a pride of ownership in Volcano that had a domino effect on nearby properties. “You know how some people have houses that are, let’s say, less than magazine-worthy? Well, when these people saw what was going on across the street, they decided it was time to fix up their own place, and they started pulling weeds, trimming bushes and even repainted their houses.”
So far, two parks have been beautified in the cities of Pioneer and Volcano, and the renovation of a third park in Jackson is underway. The enhancements each park will receive include new sod, bleachers, backstops, fencing, scoreboards and a resurfaced parking lot. The tribe tackled the most difficult park first, Mollie Joyce Park in Pioneer, which required a complete overhaul because it was overrun by weeds and neglected landscape.
Detert Park and Aime Field in Jackson, the project currently on deck, is getting a new barbecue area, baseball field and a regulation-size tennis court where the community hopes it will be able to host competitive tennis matches.
When will the beautification project in Amador County be completed? Sources say there is no specific timeline, but renovations will continue as long as local residents support the project with man-hours and donations.
So far, it has all been worth it, says Hoffman, the tribal spokesman. “There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment in seeing a project like this one develop. As each park is finished and we open it to the community, the excitement on the children’s faces and pride for everyone in the community is indescribable.”
Earlier this year, the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk Indians opened the Margaret Dalton Children’s Center in Amador County. According to TSPN-TV, the center is dedicated to the late Margaret Dalton, the aforementioned founding leader of the tribe who pioneered their transition from bingo-parlor operators to owners of the Jackson Rancheria Casino, Hotel and Conference Center, the largest employer in Amador County.