Budget Woes Mean Fewer Public Parks

By Matt Baume
|  Saturday, Apr 30, 2011  |  Updated 7:09 AM PDT
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Budget Woes Mean Fewer Public Parks

Getty Images/Spencer Platt

The Open Space District's future is unclear past 2016.

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Bad news for park lovers: the lousy economy means that the municipalities are less able than ever to acquire new open space.

Sonoma County is particularly hard hit, with the 85,000-acre Open Space District requiring a restructuring. The county's woes could have been foreseen, at least in part: much of the financial difficulty stems from debt incurred several years ago. Revenue from sales taxes is also sharply down.

Now, with money running out, the Open Space District's future is unclear past 2016.

One potential solution: no more land acquisition. According to the Press Democrat, District Manager Bill Keene wants to avoid that scenario, and believes instead that he can trim spending back to a healthy level. But even his projections are cause for concern, since they would reduce annual deposits into reserves by about $7 million.

At least one nonprofit is hoping to step up and help fill the funding gaps.

Continued expansion of open space has proven popular with Bay Area residents, and the news from Sonoma coincides with the expansion of the Bay Trail over in Richmond. It took twenty years, but the four-mile path was finally opened this weekend. The open space sits atop what was once a landfill, which is in part why it took so long to safely construct.

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