Bocce court 'come back' by South Bay community

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Building a better Bay Area sometimes involves reactivating neglected spaces. In the South Bay, residents are taking on the task of bringing an old, city-owned bocce ball court back to life.

Behind the tennis courts at Backesto Park in San Jose, the once-popular bocce ball courts remain.

However, the weeds are outgrown and the courts are seemingly unused.

"The area used to be a predominately Italian and Portuguese neighborhood," Northside Neighborhood Association President, Ed Berger told ABC7 News. "And so the bocce ball courts were put in to serve them."

Berger said back in the 40s and 50s, the space would be filled with people. He said a gradual lack of interest is how it ended up in the condition it's in today.

"It's one of the few places in San Jose where you can play Bocce," he added. "But the courts fell into disrepair a few years ago."

"They haven't been utilized in over five years," Founder of Downtown Enrichment, Carmen Cautiverio said. "So, that's a long time for such a beautiful park to go neglected."

However, area resident, Jose Posadas got the ball rolling. He posted to the Northside Neighborhood San Jose Facebook page after spending hours on his own, working to get the bocce ball courts back in shape.

"Jose Posadas has just taken it upon himself over the last few weeks to revitalize the bocce courts, clear out the weeds," Berger described. "There were some gophers in there also."

In a message, Posadas told ABC7 News, "For me the bocce courts represent our historical past- when neighbors knew each other by name, saw each other at church, attended the same elementary, junior high and high schools nearby."

"Preserving the courts was something our neighborhood fought for and won," his message continued. "We saved them from being removed and it is up to new generations to keep this history alive."

Backesto Park has also had its share of issues outside the courts. Cautiverio explained the park has had a reputation of rampant homelessness and drug use.

"There were also several homeless people living alongside the Bocce Ball courts," she said.

"Once they shut down 'The Jungle,' I think is when it became really overwhelmed," Cautiverio continued. "But it's been a park that's had this reputation probably over 20 years."

The community effort to breathe new life into the bocce ball courts is just one way the Northside neighborhood hopes to build a better Bay Area.

"If neighbors don't rally together and look for resources and support each other, then it doesn't happen," Cautiverio told ABC7 News.

Cautiverio started the Northside Night Market, where the community comes together every Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., for food, music and resource/vendor booths.

Posadas explained, another group that activates the community is the Luna Park Foundation which runs the annual Chalk Art Festival now in its 11th year.

This annual event held in September brings art to the community as artist draw amazing pieces throughout the paths inside the park.

September 21 is the next festival, free to the public, and run entirely by volunteers as are all the other things the Northside Neighborhood residents do in their corner of Downtown San Jose.

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