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Another View: Regional park projects need fair funding

Another View
By: Scott Holbrook, member, Auburn Area Park and Recreation District
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Jim Holmes and Jennifer Montgomery, as “our” elected representatives to the Placer County Board of Supervisors, I am asking you to support your local community by leading the charge this Tuesday on getting our board of supervisors to vote no on taking local park funds for a regional project. County staff will be asking to take $150,000 from the Auburn/Meadow Vista residents and nearly $50,000 from the Ophir/Newcastle area for the major expansion at Hidden Falls Regional Park. Placer County has 16 “recreation areas,” yet staff is only targeting three. Why is this? Loomis, Granite Bay, Rocklin, Roseville and so many other areas have not contributed a penny of mitigation fees and they are just as likely, if not more, to use this park! Regional projects need a regional funding solution. Further, these funds were collected to either build new facilities or rehabilitate existing ones to address the impact of new development in the local community. Within a short drive there are thousands of acres of open space parkland and hundreds of miles of trails, yet our community pool is sometimes closed to overcrowding and kids are limited to half a gym for basketball practice. ARD is regularly contacted about over-used facilities and wants for new ones. The impact from development is primarily on ARD facilities in Area 5. In 1948 the majority of voters in “Recreation Area 5” (Auburn/Meadow Vista) created a special district to address their recreation needs. That vote created the Auburn Area Recreation and Park District, (ARD), which has an elected board to represent them. For 60-plus years, the ARD has done a pretty good job. Part of making it work is the use of mitigation fees. ARD once received close to 90 percent of these funds, but if this current grab is successful, that percentage will be reduced to about a 50 percent average over the last five years. The county staff and board of supervisors need to acknowledge and respect this special district, and cannot treat it like other areas. While a portion of mitigation funds may be OK for non-ARD projects, the county has gone well beyond an acceptable level. The $150,000 slated to be taken is a huge hit for us, but just a minute amount for the county. (Don’t forget Area 5 has already contributed over $50,000 for Hidden Falls). Jim and Jennifer, you should also vote no on this issue out of respect for your constituents’ wishes. While a vocal minority may pack chambers to champion their cause, they do not represent the majority. The ARD has over 50,000 residents, most of whom cannot or do not attend meetings. As such, you need to listen to your elected peers, your advisory appointees and other representative voices. The great majority of your appointed MAC members have asked you not take these funds (at least 13 to four). In fact, Jim, not one of your MAC appointees voted to approve taking these funds! Area 5 is also served by the Auburn City Council and the ARD board, for which 100 percent voted against this funding. Listen to these voices. All are well-informed and united in not having these funds used for this project. I understand you have pressures from folks outside of the areas targeted (and some focused folks within) lobbying you, but please look at the big picture and think about the majority of the community from where these funds are targeted. Again, I ask you to represent your Auburn/Meadow Vista residents (Ophir and Newcastle, too), and lead the charge against taking these funds. As our county staff has advised, they will find other funding, the Hidden Falls expansion will not stop or be slowed down. Funding needs to be fair and represent the regional nature of this project. Your ARD currently has over $240,000 in pending applications, one for grant matching funds for an ADA accessible jogging/walking pathway at Rec Park, as well as the funding to rehabilitate Meadow Vista’s large community field, (which is now not safe for organized sports). As it is, there is not enough to fund these projects and the many other projects found on ARD’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan. Stop this madness, send it back to staff. I know we can find a win-win. Thanks for listening. Here’s hopin’ for a positive outcome for all your local recreation users and providers!