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For Immediate Release
Local parks tax supports $8.3 million in improvements
Measure M – Parks for All annual report details county, city projects
February 28, 2022
In the 2020-21 fiscal year, county and municipal park agencies throughout Sonoma County used more than $8.3 million in Measure M – Parks for All funds to expand parklands by nearly 2,500 acres, increase public access to programs and events and adopt a “climate durable” approach to rebuilding parks that have experienced wildfires.
The Sonoma County board of supervisors approved the tax measure’s annual report on Jan. 25 and released it to the public. Sonoma County Regional Parks and the municipalities of Cloverdale, Cotati, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma and Windsor, which share the one-eighth-cent sales tax, compiled the report. The tax measure, passed by Sonoma County voters in 2018, is in effect for 10 years.
“All of the city and county parks in Sonoma County have seen unprecedented usage during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who served as board chair during 2021. “The County of Sonoma, along with our city partners, felt the urgency to fulfill voters’ expectations and use the funds in ways that will ensure the parks remain an important asset for our residents.”
During the 2020-21 fiscal year, the sales tax and interest income raised $13,314,207 for these improvements. Two-thirds of the funds go to Sonoma County for its regional parks and one-third is divided among the cities, according to population size. Regional Parks used $6,916,230 to fund priority projects. The nine incorporated cities spent $1,471,533 on parks improvements and deferred maintenance.
“Parks proved essential to our mental and physical health during the pandemic, providing safe places to recreate, quiet places to reflect and new experiences with our family and friends,” said Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker. “We’ve worked diligently to use these funds to add nearly 2,500 acres that expands several existing parks, while also creating new parks and open spaces for the future.
“The Glass Fire, which burned in late September and into October 2020, reminded us that our work adapting to climate change and the area’s continuing drought conditions remain a top priority,” Whitaker added. “The multiple fires of the past few years have inspired us to adopt a ‘climate durable’ approach to rebuilding parks that have experienced wildfires. These fires are no longer a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we’re committed to investing in new infrastructure that can better withstand future fires and support the efforts of fire crews working to protect life and property.”
Along with acquiring new parklands under its protection, Regional Parks purchased equipment to clear trails and parks of fire-damaged trees and brush, and hired staff in the maintenance division to help reduce fire fuels, build and maintain trails, install signs and work to mitigate drought impacts. Regional Parks’ community engagement team pivoted to the virtual environment to reach existing and new audiences online. The team connected people to the natural world via technology: webinars, livestreams, videos and more.
Cities tackled deferred maintenance projects, installed new playground equipment and sports areas, addressed climate change in their parks and worked with their communities to provide COVID-safe events.
“This annual report highlights our collective successes,” said Melanie Parker, Regional Parks’ deputy director and Measure M administrator. “We’re proud of what was accomplished, especially in a year that included immense challenges and unprecedented need for parks and outdoor recreation services.”
Before the annual report was sent to the board of supervisors, county and city parks representatives worked with a citizen oversight committee that reviewed Measure M spending and inspected the report to ensure expenditures complied with the measure’s intent.
“We’re committed to maintaining trust and transparency with how these funds are used,” Parker said. “Together, parks agencies are working to deliver benefits to all Sonoma County residents who depend on city and county parks for their health, well-being and important connections to the natural world.”