Caper Acres Playground in Bidwell Park has been a Chico favorite since 1967 when it first opened for play time. Caper Acres is a magical surrounding for a child’s imagination to soar. When you enter Caper Acres, be a child or grown-up, you are immediately immersed into a storybook fantasyland. Caper Acres has a sense of history, nostalgia, and emotion. This beloved playground represents, for many people, a sense of continuity, connection, and community.
Unfortunately, Caper Acres was designed for a different era and a smaller population; after years of unforgiving climate and energetic use, this 50-year-old iconic playground is now in desperate need of a renovation. The Caper Acres Renovation Project was created in 2010, recommended by the City of Chico’s Park Division. It was clear that to preserve this special landmark, it needed to be renovated and long – term improvement plans needed to be made. The playground, its infrastructure, and the safety of the equipment, needed to be updated. These efforts would make the playground safer, more enjoyable, and renew the magic and wonder of this marvelous place for generations to come.
Since 2010, the Caper Acres Renovation Project has partnered with community service organizations like: the Sunrise & Noon Rotary, the North Valley Community Foundation, and several Departments at Chico State University. Additionally, over the years, the Parks Division has hosted several fundraisers for the Project. Including: the Bidwell Birthday Bash, a Winter Gala, Caper Acres Nite at the Chico Heat Ballpark, and the most popular, the Caper Acres FANTASY FUN RUN 5K Walk/Run.
The 2nd Annual Fantasy Fun Run that was held this last May, had over 250 participants who were “Dressed to Impress” in their favorite fairy tale or children character costumes. Heater, the Chico Heat Baseball mascot, started off the race with an airhorn blast. Participants were also greeted by other fun walking characters: Mickey & Minnie, Troll Princess, and Batman Minion. Attendees could get their faces painted by a pretty fairy and get their photo taken at an outdoor photo booth; all while rockin’ to the tunes provided by DJ Ryan. Winners of the race received unique commemorative medals, made especially by the Awards Company. The medals were presented by Chico Mayor, Sean Morgan, and Vice Mayor, Reanette Fillmer. Attendees saw a demonstration put on by Azad’s Martial Arts, and could stroll the numerous local business booths, while enjoying free beverages provided by Chico Natural CoOp and Chico Chai. The event raised $3,000 in donations for the Caper Acres Renovation Project.
This coming year, the 3rd Annual Fantasy Fun 5K Run/Walk will be held Saturday, April 28th, 2018 at Sycamore Field in Lower Bidwell Park. Participants can choose to do the 5K or 1 Mile Loop; all races will be timed. Each participant who signs up for early registration will be guaranteed a race T-Shirt and chip timer bib. For more information, please visit Raceplanner.com and enter, “Caper Acres Fantasy Fun Run 2018.”
The Master Plan for the Renovation Project was created in 2014; its core design is a renovation with 4 Phases. In Spring 2017, Phase 1 of the Caper Acres Renovation Project began and visitors to Caper Acres have seen sections fenced off while those areas are prepared for all the fun and new things to arrive. Phase 1 will include: the front entrance bridge, planting of native plants and trees, extending the walking path from the parking lot, a new Interactive Nature Path next to Birthday Ring 1, and the complete renovation of the swings area. In the winter of 2016, Caper Acres lost the much-loved Crooked House during record breaking storms. It was destroyed completely by a fallen tree; this prompted fundraising efforts to make it a part of the Phase 1 renovation process.
The Caper Acres Renovation Project has partnered with several organizations from the Chico community to kick start Phase 1. Slater & Sons have provided all the labor and materials for the new entrance bridge, partnering with the Sunrise Rotary for the path extension and planting. The Chico Noon Rotary donated all labor and materials to create the Interactive Nature Path. In addition, Chico State’s College of ECC (Engineering/Computer Science/Construction Mgmt), along with the Student Chapter of Associated General Contractors (AGC) from the Construction Management Department, have pulled together an interdisciplinary team. The Student Chapter also created partnerships with several local construction businesses for the installation of the Swings area project.
The CSUC student project broke ground in September 2017, with the play equipment installed in October, 2017. The student teams poured wall footings in November, 2017. The project scope includes: grading, installation of French drains, new child and infant swing sets, two spring riders, a 4 – person teeter-tooter, and seated and standing spinners. The new swings area will be partially surrounded by concrete seat walls and will be infilled with engineered fall protection fiber. The students will resume the project at the beginning of the Spring semester in February, 2018. The Caper Acres Renovation Project is partnered with the North Valley Community Foundation to help reach its financial needs in contributions and sponsorships.
3rd Annual Fantasy Fun 5K Fun Run/Walk
Date: Saturday, April 28th, 2018
Time: Check In at 7:00am, Race starts at 8:15am
Site: Sycamore Field in Bidwell Park (near Caper Acres)
Fee: Visit raceplanner.com for all race fees information
Packet Pick Up: At Fleet Feet Sports on Friday, April 27; 12–6pm