Thursday, April 5, 2007

Letter to RRROC re: Our Parks & Recreation Facilities

Boris Sztorch, CDC Redevelopment Manager
Kathleen Kane, CDC Executive Director
Dan Fein, Chairman of the RRROC
Community Development Commission
1440 Guerneville Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

April 2. 2007

RE: Our Park & Recreation Facilities: Drake Park, Monte Rio Park, & … Rio Nido Pool?

Dear Mr. Storch, Ms. Kane & Mr. Fein:

I’m excited about RRROC’s support for the two new park projects (Guerneville River Park & the Riverkeeper’s Park), but I also strongly urge the CDC & RRROC to fund improvements to our existing facilities. Although many parks & recreation areas are richly deserving of updates, my letter focuses on the ones that are most familiar to me:

· Drake Park in Guerneville: This facility boasts a playground, nice landscaping (with many flowers & wisteria vines climbing over the chain link fences) 2 tennis courts, 1 basketball court, & a parking lot. Many local visitors & tourists visit this park throughout the year. But they do not stay long. The lack of a reliable water source (the water fountain on the playground is non-functional most of the time) & the typically overfilled & disgusting condition of the portapotty drives people away. I feel that the lack of these standard conveniences does not project a positive, friendly & caring impression of our community to locals & tourists.

· Pedestrian walkway between Drake Park & the Guerneville River Park: The two facilities should be connected with a pedestrian walkway so people can walk safely back & forth. Try walking with a bunch of little kids from Drake to the River Park for exploring or potty breaks & you’ll see how dangerous the current situation really is. The relatively simple & inexpensive additions of a walkway, water source, & bathroom would also transform the separate but adjacent facilities into a larger recreation area that would appeal to locals & visitors alike. A critical mass of people using the parks would also create opportunities for enterprising local businesses & individuals (i.e. an ice-cream truck, taco cart, etc.) & generate revenue for the county (licensing fees + sales tax).

· Monte Rio Park: This facility has a playground & tennis courts, but nobody ever goes there because the wood-shavings which serve as ground cover are infested with mold. The park should also have a public restroom & reliable source of fresh water. Since Monte Rio is home to many families with young children & is also a major tourist destination, their park deserves an upgrade. I have never been to this park, but have heard about it from friends who live in Monte Rio.

· Rio Nido Pool: The pool, restaurant & bar in Rio Nido would be ideal for a community center or even a privately-run, for-profit business that receives RRROC funding for upgrades in exchange for public access (like the River Keepers Park). The property is currently for sale, but it is not on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS) because Dee & Midge want to sell to someone who will continue its tradition as a family-oriented facility that is open to the local public (i.e. not another high-end spa). It’s a wonderful facility & boasts a pool, video arcade, snack bar, bar/restaurant, enclosed patio, spacious lawn, & small stage for entertainment. If we enclosed & heated the pool, we could use it year-round. The restaurant, liquor & entertainment licenses could even enable the facility to be profitable – especially if the cafĂ© were open year-round & also served tea & coffee during the day. Additional revenues could also be generated by renting out the facility for parties & private gatherings.

I also vehemently object to the fact that whenever anyone suggests anything to do with a public restroom, officials conjure up the grim & grungy specter of what we delicately refer to as “maintenance issues.” Why should provision for the needs of our predominantly lawful & considerate community be overridden by the obnoxious & disgusting habits of a few vandals & careless slobs. This is grossly unfair. Especially since solutions to “maintenance issues” have barely even been discussed.

I can think of several solutions to these issues right off the top of my head:

  • Have the sheriffs & CHPs drive by the parks frequently over the course of their rounds. Not once have I ever seen a police car cruising by Drake Park.
  • Create volunteer “neighborhood watch” committees to patrol local parks, pick up litter, & report incidents.
  • Install special, heavy-duty phones in the park that can ONLY connect to the Sheriff’s office so park-goers can discretely report incidents in progress.
  • Post signs stating the (hopefully hefty) fines for vandalizing & abusing public facilities in prominent locations.
  • Use building materials that enable restrooms to be easily & quickly hosed down.
  • Consider distributing tokens (either free or for a nominal fee) at various locations away from the bathroom for bathroom access to discourage random abuse.
  • Have a bidet instead of toilet paper & an electric hand-drier instead of paper towels so we don’t wind up with disgusting trails & wads of paper products around the bathroom.
  • Provide plenty of garbage & recycling cans that have those funnel-like openings that make it easy to drop trash in & hard to take trash out. The people who dump out the trashcans are probably looking for bottles that they can return for the deposits.
  • Hold monthly volunteer clean-up days.
  • Charge the $10 per parcel special assessment for park maintenance that was mentioned in a previous meeting (though my skimpy wallet is already screeching, “OUCH!”).

Thank you for your time & consideration.

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