Saturday, October 31, 2009

Parkway Funding

As a recent editorial from the Sacramento Bee examines, for several years there have been efforts to ensure a stable source of funding for the Parkway through some form of tax increase, which have all failed and the Parkway continues to deteriorate.

The solution is that embraced by other signature parks in the country.

The Parkway is falling behind about $1.1 million annually just in maintenance, according to the American River Parkway Financial Needs Study Update 2006 (p. vii), so it is impossible to care for the Parkway up as it was intended to be cared for, let alone to improve it by adding new land and expanding its educational and recreational assets; particularly during troubled economic times.

The solution we have proposed for stabilizing funding for the American River Parkway is to establish a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of local government entities (currently being discussed by local public leadership) to govern the Parkway and creating a nonprofit American River Parkway Conservancy to provide management and a supplemental fund raising capability through philanthropy, which you can read more about on our website’s news page in our press releases from January 20 & July 14, 2009.

This is the model being used by the Central Park Conservancy to manage Central Park in New York—the Conservancy provides 85% of funding needed by Central Park—and the Sacramento Zoological Society to manage the Sacramento Zoo, which they have wholly done since 1997 under contract with the City of Sacramento.

Another superb example is the San Dieguito River Park in San Diego, California—an excerpt from their website:

“The San Dieguito River Valley Regional Open Space Park Joint Powers Authority, also known as the San Dieguito River Park, is the agency responsible for creating a natural open space park in the San Dieguito River Valley. The Park will someday extend from the ocean at Del Mar to Volcan Mountain, just north of Julian.

“The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority was formed as a separate agency on June 12, 1989, by the County of San Diego and the Cities of Del Mar, Escondido, Poway, San Diego and Solana Beach. It was empowered to acquire, plan, design, improve, operate and maintain the San Dieguito River Park.”

The idea in this editorial from the Sacramento Bee—correct in its call for a JPA and stable funding—but not in the benefit assessment district (more taxes) or the idea to support the Parkway through the purchase of $50 passports as the passport funds get swept into the park's general fund which can be used to support any of the numerous parks and activities throughout the County, still leaving the Parkway competing for limited funding rather than having a dedicated funding stream which the JPA/Conservancy combo would provide.

An excerpt.

“To remedy that, elected officials and citizen groups have been exploring a joint powers agreement between Sacramento County (the historical steward of the parkway) and the cities of Sacramento, Rancho Cordova and Folsom to create a "special benefit assessment district."

“While a draft agreement is heading toward a Nov. 19 vote of the county's Recreation and Parks Commission – and then on to the county board and the three city councils – major questions remain on the details.

“Would the proposed governing structure (two votes for the county, four votes for the cities) fragment the vision and administration of the parkway – giving the cities de facto control though the county owns and operates the parkway? And would the proposed assessment really go toward security and maintenance operations, or toward building new facilities in a parkway that until now has remained a largely natural river setting?

“While all this gets hammered out, ordinary folks who use the parkway can help mitigate the funding crisis.

“Buy a $50 Parks Passport. The money goes directly to park operations, and covers unlimited day use and parking for a year. It provides a way for people who bike or walk in the parkway to support the parkway – and other parks in Sacramento County. Currently, the county sells only 2,500 passes a year.”