Conklin: Loma Rica should be park
With the March 5 primary less than six weeks away, Nevada County Supervisor Bruce Conklin announced his intention to “redouble” efforts to obtain the historic Loma Rica Ranch for a county regional park.
Conklin’s “pledge” – according to a press release issued Tuesday – is prompted by a plan submitted to Grass Valley in December that would permit low- and high-density housing and industrial park development on a portion of the 452-acre property.
“Loma Rica Ranch should be preserved,” Conklin stated in his press release. “It has the potential to become our county’s ‘Central Park.’ We need recreation sites for families in the Grass Valley area and there is not a better, more beautiful or easy to get to location.”
Conklin’s political opponents, however, question the timing of the announcement and suspect that political grandstanding may be at play.
“The fact that Conklin’s bringing this up 40 days before the election is self-serving,” said challenger Mark Johnson, a former Grass Valley mayor and city councilman. “There’s been a lot of us who have worked on the Loma Rica Ranch concept for years.”
Johnson said the development plan submitted to Grass Valley does not put the regional park in jeopardy.
“I think Conklin is creating fear at a time when we should be talking seriously about what is being proposed here,” Johnson said.
In November, the Board of Supervisors applied for a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Recreation to purchase 53 acres of the ranch.
The grant would pay one-third of the estimated $1.5 million price tag and require a $200,000 match in county discretionary funds.
Conklin stated in Tuesday’s press release that he supports acquiring about 200 acres for the regional park and will ask the supervisors to authorize county staff to search for additional grants to buy the land.
Challenger Drew Bedwell said he’s not against parks and recreation, but believes the county should reconsider its funding priorities.
The county should be allocating more money for local charities and nonprofits, Bedwell said, instead of spending taxpayers’ dollars to match grants for parks and recreation.
Bedwell said when the county puts property in parks or open space, it goes off the tax rolls, which will lead to less money for county services sometime down the line.
“We live in one of the most beautiful parks in the world, called the Sierra Nevada. We have park all around us,” Bedwell said. “Our priorities need to be reviewed very carefully. The county should put people’s needs before parks.”
The Loma Rica Ranch regional park plan has been a community dream for a long time, Conklin said Wednesday. “We’re acting on that dream now … and stepping up the grant application process.”
The timing of his announcement, Conklin said, is tied to the availability of state grant funding.
“We have to act within the state’s deadlines or miss out on the opportunity,” Conklin said. “I’ve always been active in promoting parks and recreation, and I’m not going to stop now just because it’s election season.”
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