Monday, July 19, 2010

Changing Parks Management & Funding

The recent editorial in the Sacramento Bee comments on the recent deficit driven decisions to seek another way to manage some parks in the County Regional Parks division through contracts with nonprofit organizations.

This is a strategy we have been advocating for some time for the American River Parkway.

Due to its signature status among regional parks, with core elements—the bike trail and Lake Natoma—even being known internationally, it lends itself to the philanthropic fund raising crucial to survival under nonprofit management.

An excerpt.

“As Sacramento County moves to make drastic budget cuts across the board, the entire regional park system is threatened.

“Rangers are being cut by half, which means no routine patrols at many facilities, which will have to accept only "on-call" ranger services. Seasonal maintenance staff also are being cut by half, which means restrooms will be cleaned infrequently, and broken park amenities will be removed but not replaced or repaired.

“County funding has been zeroed out for the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, which has provided nature tours, Maidu Indian programs, camps, school field trips, wildlife counts, birding classes, art workshops, aquatic labs and live animal exhibits to thousands of people each year.

“The 345-acre Gibson Ranch equestrian facility, working ranch and demonstration farm – the northern anchor of the regional park system – will close after Labor Day. It has been open only Fridays through Sundays this summer. The horse boarding facility (with 60 boarders) will remain open, operated by the longtime concessionaire, currently operating on a less-than-ideal month-to-month agreement.

“This dire situation has created a new grass-roots effort to come up with options for taking the regional parks system out of county hands and placing it with some independent agency. But this will take some time to develop and will have to be decided by voters.

“In the meantime, necessity has spawned new ideas for public-private partnerships, where some park units will be publicly owned but privately managed by nonprofit organizations.”