By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa and Fort Bragg will each receive $4.8 million to build new parks, part of $184 million in grants raised from a state bond sale.
“We think we will be able to deliver a developed park sooner than we originally thought,” said Rich Hovden, Santa Rosa’s park planning and management director. “We thought it would take quite a few years with little sums of money. … This is really a great thing for the community.”
Santa Rosa’s $4.8 million will go toward development of Bayer Park and Gardens in the Roseland area, a 5.5-acre farm the city acquired three years ago.
The former farm has a barn and farmhouse, which are now being used by LandPaths as part of a community gardening program for Sheppard School students and for 36 families.
“It’s a place that truly connects urban people with agriculture history, and it has great views of Taylor Mountain, said Craig Anderson, LandPaths executive director. “I wish I had a park like that in my neighborhood. It is like grandpa and grandma’s own farm.”
Under the development plan, estimated to cost $6 million and get under way in mid-2012, the city would create a learning center, caretakers’ home, greenhouse, turf-covered play areas, picnic areas, a water fountain, exercise course and event stage, with additional buildings and amenities to continue the agriculture uses.
The city has additional funding from Sonoma County’s open space district, which also provided some of the funding for the initial purchase, and another $2.1 million in state grants.
The city also is negotiating with LandPaths, a nonprofit that deals in open space and public access to public lands, to operate and maintain the new park.
“Even if we had the staff, just creating the partnership and engaging the community is of greater value than just the city providing the programs,” Hovden said.
In Fort Bragg, the state awarded a $4.8 million grant to develop a park along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean on property that was part of the former Georgia-Pacific mill.
“It is incredibly important,” said Marie Jones, Fort Bragg’s community development director. “For 100 years, the citizens of Fort Bragg could not access their coastline.”
In a 2002 survey conducted when Georgia-Pacific closed, the top priority of residents was a coastal trail and access, Jones said.
The coastal park is also more important now that Fort Bragg relies more heavily on tourism.
The mill was once the economic engine for the city, employing half of the population, but effectively sealed the city off from the ocean.
The city acquired 92 acres of the 415-acre former mill site, including 3.5 miles of coastline, with a $4.1 million grant from the state Coastal Conservancy.
The Fort Bragg Coastal Trail project includes a 4.5-mile trail along the coastal bluffs with stairs to two small beaches.
Nearly 45 acres of asphalt will be removed and the land restored to native coastal habitat. Parking lots, access roads and restrooms also will be built.
“We will replace the asphalt with wetlands, it is one of the largest restoration projects in California,” Jones said.
Construction is expected to start next year.
Georgia-Pacific still owns the remainder of the site and is proposing a mixture of residential, commercial and light industrial uses, a hotel resort, marine education center and industrial arts center.
The state grants were authorized by Proposition 84, passed by voters in 2006 to provide funds for water quality programs, flood control and park improvements.