Soccer fields or hiking trails? Placer County panel weighs Hidden Falls fee request

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Soccer fields or trails? A Placer County panel weighs in today on a $150,000 request against Auburn Recreation District objections for developer fees to expand Hidden Falls Regional Park. District Director Gordy Ainsleigh said the board is opposed to what he describes as a raid on what has traditionally been an important source of capital funding in the Auburn-Meadow Vista area for parks and recreation facilities. “I really like Hidden Falls, I like the park and I like the trails, but one of the things we need to realize is our job is to give voters in the district the things they want to have – and it’s clear voters, if they took this to a vote, would say ‘no,’” Ainsleigh said. The district is planning to restore a badly damaged soccer field at Meadow Vista Park and the $150,000 represents the last large chunk of funding from developer fees the district’s Zone 5 will see in some time, Ainsleigh said. The Placer County Parks Commission will meet starting at 6 p.m. today and – if they vote in favor of the dedication fee request for the county park – would see their recommendation go to the Board of Supervisors at a meeting later this spring for a final decision. The commission will also be deciding whether to recommend $109,000 from the Lincoln recreation area and $46,000 from the Ophir-Newcastle recreation area should also pay for continuing work on the $4.5 million Hidden Falls expansion. Located north of Mount Vernon Road between Auburn and Lincoln, Hidden Falls is expanding its trail system from its original 221-acre footprint opened in 2006 onto an adjacent 961-acre property owned by the county. Dee Meredith, a member of the Gold Country Trails Council equestrian group, said she’s hoping for a large turnout from her group and other users to show support for the Hidden Falls expenditure. Eleven miles of trails could be opened up for riders, walkers and runners by early 2011, she said. “If there isn’t enough support, we’re going to lose those trails,” Meredith said. “Several members of our organization are going to speak from their heart about how important it is to Placer County. We can’t lose this wonderful legacy.” Andy Fisher, Placer County Parks Division parks planner, said Monday that the $150,000 comes from a fee program administered by the county for parks purposes. The fee on a single-family dwelling in Area 5, which takes in all of the Auburn Recreation District, is $3,855. The Board of Supervisors makes the final decision on fee funding allocations. Of the $3 million in Area 5 fees collected over the years, the recreation district has received about 75 percent, Fisher said. The district has support from the North Auburn and Meadow Vista Municipal Advisory Councils, which have recommended the fees not be used for Hidden Falls purposes. The Rural Lincoln advisory council, however, voted in favor of that area’s fees going toward the Hidden Falls improvements. Fisher said that there are some housing developments now moving through the planning process in Area 5 that could help replenish park fee funding coffers. “We don’t want to leave them out in the cold,” Fisher said. “We like what they’re doing but believe Hidden Falls is an important project and the funds are pivotal to meet grant deadlines.” ------------------ Placer County Parks Commission When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 13 Where: Community Room, Auburn Justice Center, 2929 Richardson Drive, North Auburn