By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Ambitious plans for a baseball, skateboard and dog park in Cloverdale have been scrapped, disappointing supporters who have been working for years to make something happen.
Backers had spent $47,000 trying develop the multi-use facility on a 3.5 acre piece of surplus city land, but said they were frustrated by changing requirements imposed by the city.
Creating enough parking to accommodate Little League games proved daunting. The also were unresolved questions surrounding a former dump on part of the property.
“My board made a decision to drop it and stop throwing good money after bad,” Little League representative Travis Pisors said of the decision to abandon plans for the park.
He expressed frustration with city officials for drawing out the parking question, saying it was “the death blow. It took us 11 months going back and forth.”
“I’m not going to bash the city too much,” he said. “But if it’s a senior center, arts alliance or some pet project, that gets puts through. The red tape somehow disappears for their project,” he said.
“I don’t think they (city officials) were working in a timely manner,” said Cassie Wall, a dog park proponent. “They were being a little more difficult than what needed to be done.”
City officials defended their actions, saying the property had a number of challenges, including a creek that runs along the northern edge and the need for minimum setbacks from the banks.
“The constraints really came from the property itself and the intensity of the uses being proposed on the site. You can only do so much with something,“ said Karen Massey, Cloverdale’s assistant city manager and community development director.
Regardless of who is to blame, “There’s a lot of disappointment,” said Ipolani Bovée, a skateboard park backer. “We feel like the public has lost confidence in the project.”
The city parcel at the southern end of Cloverdale is just east of Highway 101 and Asti Road and north of Santana Drive. At one time it was considered a possible location for a new police station before the city decided to look for a site closer to downtown.
In early 2012, City Council members greeted the prospect of a park there with great enthusiasm following a presentation from the Cloverdale Sk8Park Association, Friends of the Dog Park and Cloverdale Little League announcing their collaboration in the project.
The idea was to let the groups use and maintain the city-owned land, which is just outside city limits, but have it annexed in order to extend utilities.
The baseball field was to be placed between a skateboard facility and dog park. A restroom and snack bar were proposed.
Although costs were estimated at $1.8 million or higher, backers were expecting to significantly reduce that with in-kind donations of labor and materials, as well as funding from the county Open Space District and other grants.
But the project had to be redesigned. According to Pisors, the city wanted more than the 42 on-site parking spaces that were included in the design plan, in order to handle crowds for baseball opening day games.
The consultants proposed an extra 8 to 10 street parking spots on Santana Drive, but objections were raised by nearby business park occupants who feared that there would be a conflict between delivery trucks, children and dogs.
Pisors noted that Little League season is just April 1 to mid-June. “They wanted people to park at the train station and shuttle them up, or have us talk to neighbors to allow parking on private property,” he said. “They came up with whacky ideas.”
But Assistant City Manager Massey said “we were looking for a solution that was feasible to provide adequate parking and looking outside the box.”
The groups had to hire not only a project manager, but a traffic engineer. The bills mounted.
“It seemed like we’d get over one hurdle and there were two more coming,” said Patty Frendo, a dog park advocate.
Wall, a retired school bus driver, said even though the proposal has been dropped, there is at least $20,000 in unpaid fees owed to consultants, with no funds remaining.
“Somebody is going to be holding the bag,” she said, adding that she personally may have to pay what is owed. “It’s just a big mess.”
In the meantime, she said the 4,000 dogs in Cloverdale have nowhere to run free. The nearest place is 15 miles away in Healdsburg, or at another distant dog park at the base of Warm Springs Dam.
The 200-plus kids in Little League will continue to compete for playing time at Furber Park and Daly Field at Jefferson Elementary School, Pisors said, noting that the girls’ high school softball games have priority.
And as far as skateboarding, the closest place to do so legally is in Healdsburg. “There is a real need. Tons of kids skate, including my three kids, and my husband,” Bovée said.
None of the groups have an alternative plan now that the park site has gone by the wayside.
“I cannot express how sad I am that this has happened to all three of them,” said City Councilwoman Carol Russell. “I really do hope we will be able to find a location for all three projects — if not together, then separately.”