How Hal Bartholomew Got a Namesake Park …
… Even though the Elk Grove family law attorney is very much alive and well
Published in 2017 Northern California Super Lawyers magazine on July 7, 2017
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 Sacramento, whose team happens to play at a different park. “It’s a very well-done park, quite frankly. Which I had nothing to do with at that moment. That came many years after it was named after me.”
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, because 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 matters. “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.
It was his experience with the contentious side of divorce that led him to conclude a less adversarial approach would benefit both families and counsel. “Before collaborative divorce came along,” he says, “our best clients were ones who’d been to counseling before they came to us.”
Bartholomew has been a mediator for nearly 40 years. He has been president of the Sacramento Collaborative Practice Group since its founding in 1998, and in 2005 became the founding president of Collaborative Practice California, which embraces a non-litigious, cooperative approach to settling conflicts. The resolution, he says, tends to be less costly and less hostile. The groups include professionals who can help divorcing couples with legal, emotional and financial issues.
Bartholomew lives in Elk Grove with his wife of 35 years, Beverly Brautigam. A CPA, she is also a member of the Sacramento Collaborative Practice Group. They have children and grandchildren nearby, and many family members were on hand for the dedication of Bartholomew Park and the colorful sign bearing his name.
“I never really appreciated the fact they named the park after me until, really, the day of the dedication,” Bartholomew says. “It was like, ‘Wow! This is really impressive!’”
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. Bartholomew’s ancestors 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 languages.