Looking Behind the Scenes: Auburn gets unfair ding on Hidden Falls

By: Jim Ruffalo
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It does, indeed, get curiouser and curiouser. While the preceding line could cover just about anything these days, my particular reference is to the ongoing machinations involving Hidden Falls Regional Park. You know, for a passive park that was originally announced as a freebie, it certainly is swallowing a lot of money. And the latest item is rather curious. Depending upon your point of view — and I suppose which government official is your favorite at the moment — Hidden Falls is either a wonderful example of how open space can be a community asset, or just another form of White Collar Welfare. To my way of thinking, Hidden Falls is grabbing a whole lot of recreational dollars that really could be better spent otherwise. The current battle involves the Auburn Recreation District (ARD) getting nicked for a $150,000 contribution in order to make Hidden Falls the destination that many in the local horsey set want it to be. So that there is no mistake, be advised that the “horsey set” label is applied by just me. In fact, those from the ARD side that I spoke with took particular pains to say they didn’t feel it was a battle with the equestrian folk. Journal readers have been kept informed, but there is a new development. The Meadow Vista Municipal Advisory Council (MAC), which earlier hashed out the issue, now will hear the item again at Wednesday evening’s meeting. Curious! Is it because recently appointed member Sherri Bloomfield is a well-known advocate of matters equestrian? Don’t know, yet. Even so, we don’t bring back settled cases to the Supreme Court every time a new justice is appointed. “My understanding is that the MAC has received new information and feels it would be useful to bring this matter back for another hearing,” said 5th District Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery. By bringing the matter back to that MAC, does that mean it will again have to be reviewed by the county’s parks commission, which previously recommended against forcing ARD to part with that much in recreation mediation fees? “It will not go back to the commission,” Montgomery said, adding that once it clears the MAC it then goes to the board of supervisors. “And when it gets here, I have some alternative suggestions,” she said, although she declined to be specific about those. That’s when I asked her why the bulk of the funds seem to be squeezed from ARD, and also queried her as to why so few of the neighboring recreation districts weren’t being “asked” for such funds. “That is a totally legitimate concern and one I intend to have answered,” she said. I guess what got me going is that ARD has a lot of needed projects and very little of needed funding.  One of the projects is an on-going fund-raising effort to provide bucks for kids who can’t afford the fees for swimming or basketball. It just seems that providing an extra dollar to a poor kid is a bit more important than funding another horse-side setting for those who are itching to use that brand-new $2,400 saddle. Montgomery agreed that priorities need to be sorted out, but also pointed out that the equestrian project money is a small part of what Hidden Falls wants to spend. No matter how you look at it; $150K from ARD is too much to ask, especially when Roseville, Granite Bay, Loomis and other nearby districts are getting a free ride. Frankly, I like Gordon Ainsleigh’s idea. The ARD board member has already suggested to county Parks Administrator John Ramirez that ARD contribute $65,000 this time around, and to get the remainder from the 12 other Western Slope park districts. “The idea that ARD help out on Hidden Falls is a fair one, but what is unfair is the amount they are seeking from us, especially when we previously supplied $100,000 to them,” Ainsleigh said. He also mentioned ARD’s initiative which will be on the November ballot. “Currently, we (ARD) get 65 percent of the funds generated here, and that amount will dwindle to 55 percent,” he said, adding that once the money gets to the county “there’s a tendency to spend it upon the things that don’t align with our needs.” The proposed initiative requires that all funds raised within the district get spent within the district. “If approved by the voters, it will give the local people total control of park-mitigation fees, rather than have the matter decided by an appointed bureaucracy,” he said. That’s one way to keep ARD from being a cash cow for the horsey set. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. Reach him at