Sara Gray was living in Valley Ford with her husband and two children two years ago when she got an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Santa Rosa has hired a new parks and recreation director from El Paso, Texas, to replace Marc Richardson, who resigned in December. Nanette Smejkal was selected following a nationwide search because of the experience she gained over a 25-year career managing parks and recreations departments with a diverse array of programs and facilities, City Manager Kathy Millison said.
The mayor of Santa Rosa has called for a financial audit of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department in the wake of what he called ‘disquieting’ revelations about the department’s budget.
‘Of immediate concern is that the money to be raised is inadequate to fully fund the projects specified. There remains a $2 million shortfall even if the tax is approved. No source for the additional funding has been identified and given today’s economic environment can likely be found.’
‘This successful communitywide commitment to save Petaluma parks is unique in California because it is totally led by volunteers. The grassroots nature is also reflected in the way these funds will be managed. Once the voters approve this initiative, the funds generated will be placed in a special account at the city, separate from other funds.’
A group of Petalumans has launched an effort to place a parcel tax on the November ballot that would pay for improvements to city recreational facilities, from walking trails to the community pool to athletic fields at local parks. The ballot initiative would create a $52 annual parcel tax for 15 years, which organizers say will raise $12 million over that time.
Santa Rosa parks officials are exploring whether a combination of new taxes, partnerships with volunteer groups and the creation of a nonprofit foundation might help solve the sad state of the city’s 65 parks after years of budget cuts. An additional $2.5 million to $3 million a year is needed to address vandalism, deferred maintenance and safety issues in city parks, according to the city.
The city of Santa Rosa is one of five organizations bidding on a $1 million contract to run the after-school programs of the city’s largest school district. But some council members have questioned whether the city should be expanding its programs for low-income kids and competing against nonprofit organizations that offer similar services.
Headed up by former Mayor Warin Parker, the Windsor Parks and Recreation Foundation is identifying projects worthy of fund-raising from private and corporate sponsors. Already, some potential projects have been identified, such as a swimming pool at Keiser Park, tennis courts, a new dog park, a playground, or putting a public restroom on the Town Green.
Caryl Hart, a longtime local parks advocate and chairwoman of the state Park and Recreation Commission, was confirmed Tuesday as Sonoma County’s new Regional Parks director by the Board of Supervisors. “This is a real opportunity to apply the idea that these parks are Sonoma County’s backyard, these are your lands,” Hart said.