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Another View: It's time to develop community parks

By: Lynn Tausch, member of Mid-Placer Recreation Group
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?We want a ground to which people may easily go when the day?s work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets.? Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of Boston?s ?Emerald Necklace,? a 1,100-acre chain of continuous parks. In our area of Placer County, we are fortunate to have abundant natural recreation in the form of lakes, trails and rivers. All of these provide valid forms of recreation, but they are not the same as having a green space where the youngest to the oldest members of our population as well as the travelers who come through our area can relax on a green lawn, sit under a shady tree, walk a dog, toss a Frisbee or have a picnic. There are identified existing recreation areas in and around our section of the county; however, they are mostly trails and campgrounds. We are most fortunate to have access to a lake and two rivers, but the lake is accessed via a private concession that charges fees, even for day use. Nor is the river access amenable to use for casual picnics or by the very young or older members of our population. The need for a community park is the single most requested item in any discussion with local community members. If we don?t take steps to set aside portions of our marvelous land areas now, there is no guarantee the space will be available or affordable in the next decade. Right now, there is the ability to link facilities together and create trails, secure property at reasonable costs and acquire easily accessible locations. If we are to have local community parks that meet the community needs and have been identified as necessary by the planners who drafted our last Master Recreation Plan, there will be significant research, funding and legal requirements to meet. There are some funds available. When new homes are built or existing homes are enlarged, a mitigation fee is paid that is placed into a fund for the purpose of supporting parks and recreation in our area. County Park Department officials who administer this fund have explained there are specific requirements that must be met for use of these funds. The range of projects that have met these requirements ranges from public restrooms by a city parking lot to exercise trails at the high school. A review of this list discloses a great many valuable and useful projects, but very little of the funds have been used to create the space our community is asking for. The funds are allocated based on districts. Our district has disbursed several hundred thousand dollars over the last few years. Evidence of these monies can be found throughout the community in various projects. Unfortunately, a great deal of the money has also been used for regional projects that have limited use by our community and meet the needs of a very narrow group of users, mostly hikers and others in good health. The projects funded are in areas that must be a destination and don?t meet the definition of a local community park, nor provide the ?green oasis? our community and guests could use on a daily basis. It is increasingly clear that this is a process that should not be left to the government alone to provide for us. As citizens, to finally have the space we are all seeking and will use, we need to get involved. We need to have an action plan and make a commitment to get involved. There are many options for funding, besides the mitigation fees, that would allow us to purchase or lease land for one or more parks and support of the cost of ongoing maintenance. It is most likely that different sites will require different solutions. Among the many alternatives for acquiring land, the following options show promise: donations from private landowners; purchase land with a portion of mitigation fee funds available; lease land; form an assessment district to raise funds for lease costs or purchase of land; or develop partnerships with existing corporate, public utilities and government entities. I believe park facilities would bring a great deal of economic development as well as make our area more attractive to prospective residents. A park with a picnic area would also mean that travelers who get off the freeway would be more likely to spend time checking out the area to the benefit of local businesses. Please join in the discussion to develop more options for park facilities on Saturday. Lynne Tausch is a local Realtorand member of the Weimar/applegate/Colfax Muicipal Advisory Council.