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Central California Life Magazine

Rotary Storyland & Playland: Still Making Dreams Come True

Sep 23, 2014 12:04PM ● By Cen Cali Life Magazine
Rotary Storyland & Playland: Still Making Dreams Come True
by Don R. Simmons

The dirt, noise, road closures and detour signs might suggest Fresno's Roeding Park is closed, but its historic parks are definitely open and welcoming families all year.  

In fact, Storyland and Playland, established by the Rotary Club in 1953 and opened in 1955, are operating at full capacity these days. 

"All of the rides are operating at Playland, all of the boats are in the water, and the train is still chugging down the tracks,” said Lynda Restovich, general manager of the parks. “We just need people to come and enjoy the parks and bring their friends."  

Storyland has seen some major upgrades during the past two years. Brilliant new murals have been added, all of the "talking" story boxes are working and landscaping has been enhanced.  

As temperatures soar during these hot Valley summers, the parks’ shaded pathways and nooks provide visitors with ample opportunities to escape the sun and relax. Children can cool off at Splash Junction, a 3,500-square-foot splash park in Playland that is free to the public when temperatures pass 75 degrees. 

Hundreds of children visit the parks each year to participate in special literacy programs such as the Mother Goose story time and Literacy Walks. Kindergartners through third graders visit in school trips from as far south as Tulare and up to Madera. 

With strong volunteer support from local Rotary groups, students from the Fresno State Humanics program and other community benefit organizations, Storyland and Playland continue to be parks where adults can relive childhood memories of their favorite stories and carnival rides. Younger children can have new experiences in child-size cottages, a newly refurbished and rigged pirate's ship, a miniature castle and friendly mushrooms and lily pads.  

Storyland is also a magical setting for weddings. The park offers all of the amenities for the ceremony and reception, including a space for dancing among the flowers. 

Playland can be rented after hours for use of all the rides, including the famous train and paddle boats. 

Kelly Gomes, a Fresno mom with five children and two grandchildren, is a regular at the parks. "The Valley is blessed with Playland and Storyland,” she says. “My kids think the train belongs to them, and they feel like a part of every fairytale in Storyland.  

“The parks are safe, clean fun--and a real bargain for our family."  

Gomes’ enthusiasm is shared by 11-year-old Cheyenne Simmons, a recent visitor from Orlando, Florida. 

"At Storyland I get to be in the story--not just read it or hear it, but I get to touch it,” she said. “And the rides at Playland are the cool kind that you can ride over and over."   

For more information about Rotary Storyland & Playland, including admission prices and hours of operation, go to or call (559) 486-2124.

Don R. Simmons, Ph.D., is a Distinguished Lecturer of Humanics at Fresno State.