Manuel Mollinedo, who brought an awareness of community diversity and helped the city reach an agreement with local schools to open playgrounds to the public on weekends, has resigned as director of Fresno’s Parks, After-School, Recreation and Community Services Department.
Mollinedo, 70, was hired as PARCS director in May 2014, and Friday was his last day on the job. He stepped down for family reasons and is joining his wife in Sonoma County, where the couple have a home, City Manager Bruce Rudd said.
In his 2 1/2 years in Fresno, “Manuel was very effective in bringing in a better level of structure,” Rudd said, “because for a number of years we were somewhat fragmented in some of the programs that we were still providing” after significant budget cuts to the department.
Mollinedo also worked to make sure that programs at the city’s parks, community centers and pools “better reflect and meet the needs of the diverse community that we serve,” Rudd said.
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“He recognized that each of our community centers is a little bit different in terms of the neighborhoods they serve.” Rudd added that one of the areas where Mollinedo improved the staff’s diversity was in the ranks of its lifeguards and swimming instructors at the city’s swimming pools in different neighborhoods across Fresno.
He recognized that each of our community centers is a little bit different in terms of the neighborhoods they serve.
Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd, speaking about retired parks director Manuel Mollinedo
Mollinedo also played a key role in negotiations among the city and the Fresno Unified and Central Unified school districts to reach joint-use agreements that opened school playgrounds for the public’s use for picnics and recreation on weekends to augment the city’s available park space.
Under those agreements, two elementary schools in the Central Unified district and 14 elementary, middle and high schools in Fresno Unified have been opened.
All but three of the school sites are south of Ashlan Avenue, and in areas that have been identified as underserved by the city’s parks. The schools represent between 350 and 400 acres of green space for weekend residential recreation.
But Mollinedo’s signature accomplishment, Rudd said, “was carrying home the new Cultural Arts District Park to the finish line, making sure it got finished on time and on budget.”
The city broke ground on the new park at Calaveras and Fulton streets, at the north end of downtown Fresno, in May, and formally opened it Dec. 1. It cost of about $1.4 million, most of which came from state grants. The park covers more than 33,000 square feet and includes a performance stage and three canopies with colorful motion-detection lighting.
A new assistant parks director, Kristina Chamberlin, joined the city staff earlier this month and is expected to provide some stability during an interim period while Rudd conducts a search for Mollinedo’s replacement. “I have one or two people I’d like to talk to about the position; otherwise, we’ll do another national recruitment.”
Before coming to Fresno, Mollinedo was the director of zoos in Honolulu, San Francisco and Los Angeles; it was during his tenure as executive director of the San Francisco Zoo that an escaped tiger killed one man and mauled two other people in January 2008.
But Rudd said Mollinedo’s experience running the parks department in Los Angeles in the 1990s was what made him an attractive hire for Fresno to help the department recover from the deep budget cuts inflicted in the aftermath of the recession.