Lawyers giving back
How Hal Bartholomew
Got a Namesake Park …
… Even though the Elk Grove family law attorney is very much alive and well
BY JUNE D. BELL
Hal Bartholomew has played slow-pitch softball
for decades, but he has yet to step up to bat at the
Elk Grove park named in his honor. The family law
attorney vows to remedy that soon, on a summer
evening when dusk comes late.
Not that daylight is required to enjoy the Hal
Bartholomew Sports Park. Many fields on its 46
acres are lighted, allowing lacrosse, soccer, football,
tennis and softball players to practice and compete
after dark, year-round. “It offers so much,” says
Bartholomew, of Bartholomew & Wasznicky in Sac-
ramento, whose team happens to play at a different
park. “It’s a very well-done park, quite frankly. Which
Though parks and civic buildings are typically
named after deceased local luminaries, Elk Grove,
a southeastern suburb of Sacramento, does things
differently. In fact, it was Bartholomew, 70, who
suggested decades ago that the Elk Grove Parks and
Recreation Board, on which he served for 18 years,
start naming green spaces for residents active in the
community. The board agreed, and a tradition began.
“Why do we honor people when it’s too late for
them to realize it?” Bartholomew reasons. “Our
park dedications really became celebrations, be-
cause we’d have a ceremony, and then we’d have
a barbecue, so people who knew the family would
come out. The families thought it was really cool.”
But he never expected a park to be named for
him. When Bartholomew joined the board (now
called the Cosumnes Community Services District)
in the mid-1970s, he was just following the lead
of his father, Alvin, who had served on the sewer
board, school board and various church committees. “I grew up in an environment where you
helped out in the community,” Bartholomew says.
“That was part of life.”
In the mid-’70s, the town’s only park was a
regional site run by the county. But the board kept
an eye toward the future, stockpiling more than 50
green spaces during his tenure.
“We grabbed the land whenever we could,
because we never could have been able to afford
it otherwise,” he says. The board paid less than
$23,000 per acre for land that later commanded
more than five times that amount. But with a limited
budget, the park district had to adopt a buy-and-hold
strategy. Ground for the Hal Bartholomew Sports
Park was purchased in the 1990s, but the park didn’t
open until 2010. Bartholomew’s four fellow board
members surprised him at his 1994 retirement dinner
by announcing their plan to name the park for him.
During his time on the board, Bartholomew often
drew on his skills as a mediator in family law mat-
ters. “I made sure everybody was heard so they felt
they were participating in the decision,” he says.
He didn’t set out to specialize in family law, but
it grew on him when he took over a colleague’s
practice at the firm where they worked, after she
moved on to become a judge. “I discovered that
divorce and family law is really a business practice,
which is what I wanted to do,” he says, noting it
encompasses real estate and corporate law.
Hal D. Bartholomew
Four Reasons Hal Bartholomew Loves Elk Grove
1 STRAUSS FESTIVAL
A free outdoor program
with dancers and an
orchestra playing waltzes
and polkas. Bartholomew
was emcee at the first
festival in 1987.
Elk Grove was established
in 1850 as a stop for gold
miners and stagecoaches.
Shops popped up along
with the railroad in 1868.
arrived in the 1880s.
3 COMMUNITY FLAVOR
Though the population has
grown (to 163,000 in 2015),
it retains its small-town
feel at 4th of July festivities,
a giant pumpkin contest,
farmers markets and an
annual Western Festival.
Elk Grove established its
first elementary school in
1866 and a high school
in 1893. It now has about
62,000 students who
speak more than 80