By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County officials are set to take their first formal step next week in a bid to assume operation of Annadel State Park.
The move is meant to avoid the planned closure of the popular Santa Rosa destination, one of five state parks in the county slated to be shuttered July 1 as part of the state’s budget-cutting efforts.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is set to authorize negotiations on an agreement with the state that would put Annadel in county hands for a year.
County leaders have voiced support for the move, joining groups and individuals that have rallied in recent months to save Annadel from closure.
Shirlee Zane, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors, called the 5,000-acre park “vital” in the swath of connected public land that includes Spring Lake Regional Park and Santa Rosa’s Howarth Park on the east side of Santa Rosa.
“There’s tremendous support in the community for us to keep this park open and operate it,” Zane said.
The agreement has been outlined in preliminary talks with the state, said Caryl Hart, the county’s regional parks director.
Her report to the board pegged annual costs to run Annadel at $350,000.
That includes staffing expenses for state and county rangers, maintenance work, emergency response, visitor services and coordination with volunteer groups. Funding for minor repairs, sanitation, supplies, utilities and county parks overhead also is factored in.
About $150,000 has been committed in funding and in-kind services from the state. The rest is set to come from donations, a move intended to avoid straining the county’s strapped general fund, Hart said.
Local fundraising has generated about $185,000, not including a pledge of $15,000 in matching grants announced last month by VeloStreet, the nonprofit agency that owns and raises money from Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge GranFondo cycling event.
The largest single donation was $100,000, Hart said, declining to identify the source.
“Now is the time for the board to determine how they want to proceed,” she said. “There will be a celebration of donors once we get an agreement in place.”
Given a go-ahead from supervisors, Hart said she would work to secure an agreement by April.
Roy Stearns, a state parks spokesman, indicated that a deal with the county likely would be among the easier local operating agreements now being considered by the state to keep open some of the 70 California parks slated for closure.
With the county taking over, “their learning curve is already close to nil,” Stearns said.
A deal likely will incorporate a possible extension of the term beyond one year to account for the state’s budget uncertainties, Stearns said.
He said the goal is not to permanently unload parks onto local governments or nonprofit groups.
“I think our hope in most cases is that we would be able to have these parks back into the system and that this is temporary,” he said.
Zane said it is the responsibility of elected officials and park supporters to push for additional state funding to support Annadel’s operations.
“We don’t want to give the state the wrong message that we’re going to pick up the tab going forward,” she said.
In the meantime, the county’s Regional Parks Foundation and the Parks Alliance for Sonoma County are forging ahead in the effort to solicit donations aimed at staving off park closures.
Several local nonprofit groups submitted bids last week to operate or support the other four parks targeted for closure in the county. They are Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park east of Kenwood, Austin Creek State Recreation Area outside of Guerneville, Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park and Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen.
Fundraisers include a Feb. 12 piano concert in Jack London State Historic Park, a Feb. 14 dinner at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma to support the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park and a Feb. 18 hike in Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park.
For details and other park events visit www.parksalliance.com.
You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.