Gift of park funding causes clash
Nevada County supervisors will talk about money for parks and recreation today. From one person, it’s a lot of money.
Auburn benefactor Dryden J. Wilson left the county $877,738 with no strings attached, but a wish that it be spent on parks and open-space conservation.
In September, the Board of Supervisors opted to set the money aside until criteria for its allocation can be developed and circulated among the county’s parks and recreation districts and land trusts.
But with the state’s budget deficit projected to soar past $21 billion over the next 19 months, now is not the time to spend money on parks, said still unofficial Supervisor-elect Drew Bedwell.
At stake is the affects of the state’s looming budget deficit on the local economy and county budget expenditures, wrote Bedwell in an e-mail to The Union.
Bedwell predicted that outgoing Supervisors Bruce Conklin and Elizabeth Martin, along with Supervisors Peter Van Zant and Barbara Green, will push “as a part of their legacy” to use Wilson’s gift to purchase 350 acres at Loma Rica Ranch for creation of a regional park.
Van Zant said that while the Wilson bequest legally could be spent on anything, the Board of Supervisors is committed to spend it on parks and recreation. But he disputed Bedwell’s claim that the money has been earmarked specifically for creation of a Loma Rica park east of the Brunswick Basin in Grass Valley.
“A number of projects have been identified,” Van Zant said. “But Loma Rica is not anywhere near the stage of project proposal.”
Bedwell, a property rights activist who led the charge to stop the county’s controversial Natural Heritage 2020 land-use planning project, said, “Many feel that this is an expenditure much like 2020 and feel-good projects like this that are out of touch with fiscal reality.”
Bedwell pointed out that the Board of Supervisors determined last week that the county can’t afford to create a crisis stabilization unit to deal with mental health clients in crisis.
“Isn’t the health of our people more important just now?” Bedwell asked.
While the Wilson bequest came with no strings attached, Supervisor Conklin – apparently defeated by Bedwell in the November election – said it was the benefactor’s intent that the money be used for parks and open space conservation.
“That’s why he gave us the money,” Conklin said. “We feel that if we don’t honor the bequest, people will be reluctant to give money to the county in the future.”
For example, Conklin said, if someone made a bequest for mental health services, the county would certainly honor that request.
Van Zant and Conklin pointed out that the county is utilizing other measures to assist persons in crisis in lieu of starting up a stabilization unit that the county can’t afford at this time.
Meanwhile, the county Elections Office will certify the final election results by noon today and declare the official winner in a tight District 3 supervisor’s race where Bedwell defeated incumbent Conklin by 19 votes.
Conklin said he’ll wait until the election is certified before deciding whether to call for a recount.
Any voter or candidate has five days to request a recount, once the election is certified. Whoever requests a recount must pay for it, but if the recount reverses the results, the money is returned.
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Nevada County supervisors will discuss allocation of the Dryden J. Wilson bequest and other available county funds for park and recreation uses.
WHEN: 9:05 a.m. Tuesday
WHERE:Rood Administrative Center, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City
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