Water board gets preview of preserve

By: Jenna Nielsen Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
The City of Auburn held its first official function at the nearly completed Auburn School Park Preserve Friday. City officials gave a presentation about the park to members of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board's Central Valley region as they munched on a PlacerGrown lunch. The board, which usually meets in Sacramento, held a strategic planning meeting in Auburn from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Board members asked anyone if they had an idea about where we could meet and I said I knew the perfect place, said board member Cheryl Maki. Most members have never been to Auburn. A lot of them are from the Central Valley and down south so it is nice to have them here and expose them to our community. Jack Warren, city public works director touched on the history of the 4.6 acre park behind City Hall that is set to open to the public in May. The park you see now is looking pretty good, but it's not quite finished yet, Warren said of the minor tasks that need to be completed. What you see also looks very natural, but it was far from it. The $5.5 million dollar project located at College Way and High Street was developed to transform a neglected site and restore it to a multi-use park and preserve that would serve as a community focal point. The park was previously the site of the Lincoln Way School play yard. The park includes a new trail system, informational kiosk, the restoration and daylighting of the underground Lincoln Creek and the renovation of the historic Cooper Amphitheater. It will also connect Old Town and Downtown Auburn and provide flood protection for the city. Warren said project officials also have plans to build a not-yet-funded interpretive nature center and want to extend the Lincoln Creek under Auburn Folsom Road, connecting it to a park in Old Town. Bob Cooley-Gilliom, chairman of the School Park Preserve Design and Development Committee, told the Journal in a previous interview that he is excited to see the project's completion after years of planning, design work and setbacks. Cooley-Gilliom and his late wife, Susan, also donated $900,000 for the project in 2006. Susan Cooley-Gilliom, founder of the Emigrant Trails Greenway Trust, was instrumental in the early development and design of the park. She passed away in 2003. Park officials have plans to commemorate her in some way, possibly on park signage. But Cooley-Gilliom said exactly what will be done hasn't been decided yet. Funding for the rest of the project came from various grants, donations and federal sources. In August 2004, U.S. Congressman John Doolittle, R-Roseville, announced $1 million in federal funding for the park. The City of Auburn came up with $1.7 million on its own and $900,000 was donated by the Cooley-Gilliom's Skyview Foundation. The Army Corps also came up with $700,000. The rest came from different grants. What is most exciting about this project was a genesis of the neighbors, the community, City Manager Bob Richardson told board members Friday. They literally pitched in millions of dollars to make this happen. This is something we are obviously proud of and are delighted to have you here to share it. The Journal's Jenna Nielsen can be reached at or comment on this story at