Our View: ARD must lobby supes, using local parks and rec lovers

Our View
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Now is the time for the Auburn Recreation District to enlist its raving fans and conscientious supporters to rally before the Placer County Board of Supervisors. With a little help from their friends, ARD officials might just convince the board to see the value of reversing a county Parks Commission recommendation to divert $150,000 of developer fees to Hidden Falls Regional Park. ARD delivers a strong program of athletics, swimming, arts and adventure programs for children, teens and adults. With newer programs such as Passport to Health, ARD has taken the lead on good health well into the golden years. ARD operates 10 parks and facilities, including Recreation Park, Regional Park and the Ashford Dog Park, and also maintains a number of neighborhood parks. ARD events, including the free Party in the Park each June, attract a wide array of locals and visitors. Under the leadership of District Administrator Kahl Muscott and its five-member board, ARD has restored the public trust, which wavered earlier this decade. Board members haven’t always agreed, but they have worked together to build confidence in the district — and that district is meeting the challenges of a tough economy. So, against this backdrop comes the bombshell that Placer County would like to dip into Recreation Area 5’s pool of development fees. The fees, which come from new home development, are intended for expanding recreational opportunities caused by population growth. The county would use the ARD funds, as well as money from the Lincoln and Ophir-Newcastle recreation areas, to leverage state grants that would finance 11 miles of new trails at the county-run Hidden Falls Park. Both sides of the argument have merit. The county sees 221-acre Hidden Falls, located between Auburn and Lincoln on Mount Vernon Road, as a hidden gem worthy of the funding. With more and more people seeking an outdoor experience, Hidden Falls has become a destination for hikers, equestrians, cyclists and bird-lovers. ARD makes a case for the cash, too. Urban facilities and parks get a tremendous amount of use and must be maintained to meet a growing population. Some sites must be modified to meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. Up until now, ARD officials have chosen to engage in a war of words with the county and a few stray naysayers in public, in print and online. So far, all it’s done is make good newspaper and blog copy. ARD needs to take that energy to the streets, recruiting soccer, volleyball, Little League, basketball, pickleball and other sports teams. ARD needs young gymnasts, weekend warriors, skateboarders, dancers, swim clubs and aging athletes to contact supervisors with their desire to keep our money local. These funds are desperately needed for facilities Auburn-area residents deserve. When it comes time to present ARD’s appeal to the board, the single-file line to speak should be down the main aisle and out the door at the Domes. If local parks and recreational facilities matter, and they do, residents young and old will turn out and speak. But only if they’re asked and organized. ARD parks and open space are more important than ever. With money tight, residents are looking local to exercise and provide outdoor activities for their families. Maintaining what’s already built makes a lot of sense while Hidden Falls is developed sensibly, over time. ARD leaders have local support, but they must use their influence to reach out and bring out the voices that supervisors will listen to.