San Juan Ridge rallies to create park district
A long-stalled effort to create a park and recreation district on the San Juan Ridge has been revived.
But the biggest hurdle might be finding the money to maintain Oak Tree Park, 111⁄2 acre parcel bought by the county from Twin Ridges School District a year ago.
On April 13, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors will consider the first steps toward creating a district that would manage the park. On Oak Tree Road a little more than a mile east of North San Juan, the new park formerly was the lower campus of Oak Tree School, which was closed in 2000 due to declining enrollment.
“We were experiencing the beginning of a decline in enrollment, so for practical and economic reasons we transferred (the students) to Grizzly Hill, which was able to accommodate all the children,” said former administrator Pete Milano, a park advocate.
Oak Tree School became a charter school, but closed for good in 2001. In 2008, the school board declared the lower campus parcel to be surplus property.
The Little League ballfields had fallen into disuse and were difficult to maintain, Milano explained.
The upper campus containing the school buildings, which still belong to the school district, are leased out at almost no charge to the Family Resource Center.
In 2009, the county used a $500,000 grant to buy the unused field and pond property below the school. Since then, volunteers have been working to create a park and recreation district with a governing board to oversee the district, and approve a parcel fee for improvements and maintenance.
The park committee presented their plans to the community at a town hall meeting March 18. The next step is for county supervisors to approve a resolution asking the Local Agency Formation Commission to start forming the park and recreation district.
“As a community, we’ve been dedicated to making this project go forward,” said Michael Travers. “(But) there are a lot of opinions on what should be done.”
Some in the community have concerns about how the grant money was spent, and many dislike the idea of paying a fee to support the park.
The $500,000 grant only could be used to acquire parkland, Travers said. He also stressed the park and recreation district would have no right to exercise eminent domain, a concern that was raised by some in the community.
The parcel fee – which tentatively has been set at $13.50 per tax period for improved parcels and $8 for unimproved parcels – would go to maintain and improve the park, including the ballfields. Proposed amenities could include picnic and barbecue areas and a community garden.
“If you have kids, you know they need a place to go,” Travers said.
The district formation committee is working to get the issue on the November ballot and has planned a fundraiser and awareness event on May 22. The committee already has raised about $1,500 in four months, said member Roo Cantada.
“We need to take away the scariness of the parcel fee,” she said.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4229.
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