October 22, 2008 > Letter to the Editor: No on Measure WW
Letter to the Editor: No on Measure WW
Concerned citizens who wished to preserve open space and to provide a system of parks for the use and enjoyment of the general public established the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) in 1934. The system has continued to grow, as funds were available until it is now the largest regional park agency in the United States.
In 1988 the EBRPD raised $225M with Measure A-A in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The funds were to be used to acquire additional land for the preservation of open space, to complete existing parks and to open additional parks for the safe use and enjoyment of the public. Since 1988 top priority has been given to the acquisition of land as the availability of land in the future was thought to be problematic. 34,000 additional acres were acquired with Prop A-A funds. The park system now includes 98,000 acres of land, 65 parks and over 100 miles of trails; a truly impressive accomplishment.
The acquisition and preservation of land was successful, however the allocation of funds resulted in extended delays in the opening of additional parks and in the complete facilitation of existing parks, thus denying the public additional recreational opportunities. Thousands of acres still remain land banked. This valuable land is not available to the general public and remains off the real estate tax rolls. A good portion of the unused land is related to the ridge trail project.
New parks have been slow to open and suffer the same lack of adequate funding as existing parks, thus resulting in inadequate and in some cases unsafe conditions to exist. The results are predictable; some parks are heavily used, many are barely used by the general public. EBRPD is now seeking $500M in additional funds through Measure WW. $375M of the funds is designated to be used to fund regional park acquisition and capital projects thus continuing the fund allocation of the '80's.
Times have changed. Public funds are often unavailable for necessary public educational and public safety programs. Asking the public to approve a $500M tax extension based on 1988 priorities is inappropriate. The EBRPD Board has overall done a good job but should consider revising their plan to meet the realities of today's economic times. A measure for a reduced amount with allocations of 75% for the opening of new parks on existing owned properties and completing the capitalization of present parks and 25% for future growth would meet the present needs of the public and may earn the public's support.
Arthur A. Noeth