By BRETT WILKISON and ROBERT DIGITALE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Roseland residents gained two key properties for a future community park Tuesday when Sonoma County supervisors approved an open space purchase for 11 acres in southwest Santa Rosa.
The $3.4 million Roseland park deal, set to close escrow March 1, is a joint effort between the county’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the city of Santa Rosa and Exchange Bank, which owns the two properties and donated $1.7 million to the sale price.
“This is a great day for the Roseland neighborhood,” said Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who grew up in the area and now represents it and much of the west county.
The acquisition secures the biggest portion of the proposed 20-acre Roseland Creek Community Park. The city previously purchased nearly 6 acres using a separate $2.4 million county open space grant. The city has applied for $5 million in state money to purchase the remaining 2.6 acres and develop the park.
That last parcel sits amid the three properties already acquired for the park.
The parcels, which are south of a row of residential properties, that face Hughes Avenue, all have frontage on Burbank Avenue on west. There is partial frontage to the park site on McMinn Avenue to the east.
The land consists of oak woodland and grassland. Plans call for a public trail, plus interpretive signs and a restored stretch of Roseland Creek.
The city held five community meetings last year and residents made clear they want land north of the creek preserved naturally and the property to the south developed for “active recreation” uses, said Marc Richardson, director of the city’s Recreation, Parks & Community Services Department.
The park has been on the drawing board for 20 years and has been seen by county and city officials as a key priority for Roseland, one of Santa Rosa’s most-densely populated and underserved areas in terms of park land.
Park development there could take several years, Richardson said. Neighbors have volunteered to help maintain the property and to help provide some environmental education tours there for school or youth groups.
Richardson acknowledged that maintaining new parks is difficult when so many cities are struggling to balance their budgets.
“That’s why the partnership with the neighbors is so important,” he said, “because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
For Tuesday’s deal, the open space district provided $1.4 million, and the city contributed nearly $300,000 in redevelopment and park funds. The Exchange Bank obtained the 11 acres through foreclosure in 2009.
The proposed park is within a one-mile radius of four elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools of the Roseland School District, and is expected to support a variety of community activities, including environmental education and after-school programs.
Roseland neighborhood advocate Duane De Witt cheered the park purchase, which he has been pushing for 17 years.
“This is a big day for Roseland kids to have nature,” De Witt said.