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Auburn parks district honing long-term building plans

10-year project list could be approved May 30
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A bocce ball court, new bicycle pump track and developing new parkland in North Auburn are on an Auburn Recreation District wish list that the public is getting a chance to weigh in on.

A draft version of the parks district’s tentative 10-year plan is now being circulated, with board members slated to fine-tune and approve the blueprint for capital projects by the end of May. 

Board director Curt Smith said that one of the highlights for him is that the draft plan calls for taking care of major Americans With Disabilities Act access needs and requirements at Ashford Park.

The projected list of Ashford Park projects would start in mid-year and include a $68,000 playground upgrade, $27,000 for improving paths of travel and $60,000 for a restroom remodel,

Smith said he’s also supportive of plans for some major changes at Railhead Park. The park is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as part of the long-dormant Auburn dam project site. The district secured use of the land in the 1990s and developed fields there, but are on a month-to-month lease that could be pulled at any time in the unlikely event that a dam project is resurrected. 

Because of the temporary lease agreement, the district has shied away from investing in facilities there.

“It’s languished because it’s soccer fields and the land belongs to the Bureau of Reclamation,” Smith said. “We’re finally taking the view that the Bureau of Reclamation is going to allow us to keep it.”

A total of $150,000 is budgeted in 2015-16 for soccer-field realignment. Smith said the number of fields will double from two to four, although the fields will be smaller. The bike track effort is being led by pump-rack enthusiasts and a majority of its costs are projected to not be borne by the district, although $60,000 has been included in the 2014-15 projected master plan budget.

Another new development could be a bocce ball court. It’s projected to be built at Recreation Park and $200,000 is budgeted for the 2014-15. All budget projections are based on a steady stream of funding from city and county developer mitigation funds. Other funding would come from reserves, grants and donations.

 “Bocce ball may sound a little bit strange but we have a known, aging demographic in the town and we’ve had people request bocce ball,” Smith said.

District Administrator Kahl Muscott said the majority of the projects on the list are improvements to infrastructure, including bathrooms, parking lots and tennis-court surfaces.

“We have many aging facilities and features at our district,” Muscott said. “Our goal was to keep these structures viable while still providing some new and upgraded facilities for the public.”

By 2017-18, the district is anticipating it will have the funding to move ahead on a walking pathway, picnic areas and playground at the Bell Road site at New Airport Road that it is expecting to soon acquire from Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

“The main obstacle for the plan is money,” Smith said. “When we look at reserve funding and what we project we’re going to accumulate from year to year, we don’t have near enough money to complete the 10-year project list.”

But if there is a sudden building boom, particularly on the undeveloped Baltimore Ravine property, the district would have a windfall of money to work with, he said.

Even one development can make a difference. The senior housing at the Sisters of Mercy Center on Sacramento Street has provided more than $150,000, Smith said.

 

Where to find the plan

The 10-year plan, as well as a master list of all potential Auburn Recreation District projects, is available on the district website at auburnrec.com. Copies are also available at the district administration offices at the 471 Maidu Drive in Auburn or by calling (530) 885-0611, extension 102. Comments on the 10-year project list should be made no later than 5 p.m. May 16. The board will consider approving the project list at its May 30 meeting.