Plenty of central San Joaquin Valley families took advantage of nearby parks and lakes on the Fourth of July, proving that a staycation isn’t so bad.
Dozens of families were picnicking and barbequing at Woodward Park in north Fresno on Tuesday afternoon, including Jose Ireta, who was holding his two small dogs on their leashes while his family unpacked the car for a picnic.
Ireta said this is one of the first years he’s stayed in Fresno for Independence Day. “We usually go to the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, Monterey,” he said.
Ireta couldn’t make any trips this year because he became disabled and money was tight.
“Sometimes it’s hard,” he said. “I wish I was on a boat in Tahoe. But one of the main things is to spend time with your family.”
Ireta and his family didn’t purchase any fireworks to light at home, but they planned to watch the show at Chukchansi Park later in the evening, he said.
At Millerton Lake, supervising state park ranger Mark De Leon said his staff took on extended shifts to cover the thousands of people visiting over the next few days. Nine lifeguards were on duty throughout the park and peace officers were on patrol and on the lookout for anyone in distress.
“It’s open-water swimming. which is different than swimming in your backyard,” said De Leon, who added there hadn’t been any near drownings or alcohol-related arrests.
McKenzie Point was closed as of Tuesday afternoon because of crowds. “When the water level is up to where it is, there’s not enough real estate for people to park,” he said.
The high water level, however, was welcomed by Millerton Lake Rentals owner Larry Calandra. He said sales this year have been record-setting for the business. “It hasn’t been like this at least for the last five years,” he said.
Cassandra Hernandez sat in the shade at Millerton Lake watching family members ride jet skis, though she and her family had no set plans for afterward. “It’s hard to make big plans, because it’s Tuesday,” she said.
She was happy to see the water level so high, even if it made the park more crowded. “It’s great; (there’s) less space for parking, but you really can’t complain,” she said.
Luis Lopez was one of the first to arrive at Millerton Lake at 7 a.m. He set up a barbeque and canopy near the water and waited for his family to arrive. Lopez manned the barbeque and watched his family ride jet skis and play in the water.
“We’re going to leave around 8 or 8:30 (p.m.),” Lopez said. Since fireworks are not allowed in the park, Lopez planned on going home to light the ones he bought for his family. Coming to Millerton Lake is something Lopez and his family look forward to every year.
“We bought a lot of fireworks for the kids – legal, not illegal,” he laughed. “It’s a family tradition.”