Regional park supporters urge Solano supervisors to move forward
FAIRFIELD — The Solano County Board of Supervisors this week was pressed about when it will move forward on a proposed regional park and open space district.
Amy Hartman, Solano County representative for Greenbelt Alliance, wanted to know when the county expected to put the proposed countywide district on a ballot for voter consideration.
“We have a couple of asks. First, we want to know when the (administrative) and financial plan is going to be released to the public.” Hartman told the board on Tuesday. Supervisor Jim Spering was absent.
“We know the county has been working on it for quite a while and we would just love to see that document and be able to talk to folks around the county about what is going to be in the admin and finance plan,” Hartman said.
The concept is to integrate the county’s existing park system with other properties, such as those owned by the Solano Land Trust, to be able to increase public access to those areas.
In a letter to the board, Greenbelt Alliance and a number of other groups and individuals, including Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and Michael Alvarez, a member of the Solano County Parks Commission, suggested the measures go before the voters next year.
“We ask that two separate ballot measures are placed on countywide ballots – one for the creation of the district and another for a funding measure of the district,” the letter states.
The letter was signed by two members of the Solano Open Space Citizens Advisory Group, the Progressive Democrats of Benicia, Solano Sierra Club, Solano County Orderly Growth Committee and the Solano County Policy Action Team of the Bay Area Chapter of the Climate Reality Project.
“Our ask is that these ballot measures are put to the ballot in separate elections – ideally, the formation of the district would be on the March 2020 ballot, and the district’s funding measure would be on the November 2020 ballot or a subsequent election,” the letter states. “. . . As groups with large membership and extensive outreach capabilities, we are ready and willing to support the campaign effort that will be required to successfully pass measures to create and fund the district.”
There were not a lot of specifics in board Chairwoman Erin Hannigan’s reply, but she noted that the board’s subcommittee working on the issue, which also includes Supervisor John Vasquez, is scheduled to meet Sept. 30.
Bill Emlen, director of the Department of Resource Management, said his staff could have the plans in front of the board in October.
“Even if we can get the park established, even without a finance plan, there is a lot of money (out there),” Hartman told the board, referring specifically to Proposition 68 bond funds.
State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, carried the special legislation that allows the county to introduce the park district by resolution for voter approval. It won Senate and Assembly support in May 2017.
There has been little discussion at the board level since, and even less about how the district would be funded.
Two funding ideas have been floated publicly. The first is to ask voters to support an ongoing funding mechanism for the park district. The other is to use existing county park funds to support the district in the early stages.
The supervisors, in January 2016, appropriated $75,000 for a consultant to assist county staff with various initiatives related to forming the district, including public outreach.
A 2015 consultant’s report stated that while the public supports the idea of a regional parks system, it does not support additional funding measures to pay for it.