Although very few could identify pétanque, players of this 100-year-old game would argue that it’s more popular than you’d think, which is why the French game of accuracy is expected to have a new court in Saratoga’s Azule Park in the coming weeks.
But even for a city of about 30,000 people, a dozen pétanque players isn’t very many. And even for a community with deep pockets, $17,000 seems like a lot of money to spend on a court that only 10 to 12 people will use.
In spite of the small population of pétanque players, the South Bay city of Saratoga deemed this expenditure worthy and is slated to install the court as soon as the construction contract is negotiated.
Saratoga and pétanque have a lot in common: Both are family-friendly, but not very widely known. Even lesser known is the municipality next door: Monte Sereno. It is so small that the city with a population of only 3,483 has no police force, no library, no schools to its name — not even a city park. For these services, Monte Sereno looks to its slightly larger neighbors, Saratoga and Los Gatos, for support.
Monte Sereno’s reliance on its neighbors justified allocating $40,000 of its 2002 Proposition 40 park-development funds to Saratoga to improve the parks that Monte Sereno residents use for recreation.
“We generally look to where our citizens use parks in surrounding communities and what services our citizens use to the greatest extent,” said Monte Sereno City Manager and Planner Brian Loventhal. “And we look for ways to spend those funds in those opportunities.”
In return, Saratoga is “giving them some advantages to use the improvements they provided funds for,” said Iveta Harvancik, a senior city engineer.
The advantages will include using the pétanque court at a discounted reservation rate, Harvancik said. (People will be required to pay a small fee to reserve the court for use at a specific time, but it will be open to the public for drop-in games free of charge.) “The citizens of Monte Sereno will be able to use the pétanque court as citizens of Saratoga,” Harvancik said.
Some citizens of Saratoga, while not necessarily against this investment, have some questions about how reasonable it is to spend so much money on a game that only 12 Saratogans play.