For the community, by the community

Marianne Paiva is a local writer and friend of the Cardoza family.

A local group of parents and citizens have come together in the face of tragedy and appear to be accomplishing the impossible: creating a community project funded almost entirely with donations and constructed almost entirely with volunteers, energizing local government in the process.

At a recent Bidwell Park and Playground Commission meeting, members of the Nico Cardoza Memorial Park Project presented plans for a new play structure in the city’s most beloved park, Caper Acres.

The six commissioners and the park director expressed resounding support for the project, giving the go-ahead for the design concept and location of the Nico Project.

Most of Chico’s children over the past 40 or so years have played at some point in the circular, gated park, creating unforgettable memories of laughter and running and picnicking under the oaks that provide much needed shade in the hot Chico summers.

But in recent years, Caper Acres has fallen prey to inclement weather, vandals and age, leaving the playground lacking in comprehensive, safe play equipment for kids of all ages.

While Chico has many kid-friendly areas, those areas are geared more toward elementary and middle school children.

That’s where the Nico Project comes in.

The Nico Project will be designed specifically for the toddler set, complete with soft surfacing, lower play equipment, and toddler-sized crawl structures. It is hoped that the structure will be placed in Caper Acres in the grassy area where Fort Apache once stood.

The idea for the project comes as response to the sudden loss of Nico Cardoza, a 16-month-old Chico boy who passed away unexpectedly in December. Friends and family of the Cardoza family have rallied with time, donations and expertise to create a project that will memorialize Nico and create a place for the children of Chico to play.

Why this project? Because Nico Cardoza loved to play in the park.

He played in the park nearly every day of his short 16 months and he spent most of those days in Caper Acres with his sister Sophia and his parents. Nico brought joy and laughter to those he knew, and would have, had he lived, brought much more to those around him.

This play structure, in Nico’s name, will begin to replace the joy that was lost when we lost Nico.

Your time, expertise and donations are needed to make Nico’s Project a reality. Support the Nico Project and help create more memories of laughing children, running and climbing and most importantly, being kids in the heart of Chico, in Caper Acres. For more information, to donate or volunteer your time and expertise, visit the Nico Project website at