Clarke Ranch

American Canyon intends to develop the 27-acre Clarke Ranch near the wetlands for public use.

Noel Brinkerhoff/Eagle

American Canyon has agreed to an unusual matching grant by promising to equal the money contributed by the local parks foundation for a city project that the city hasn’t approved yet.

The City Council last Tuesday approved a request by the American Canyon Community and Parks Foundation to match $50,000 towards converting part of Clarke Ranch into an outdoor recreation area.

The request came just days before the foundation’s annual fundraiser at the old cement factory, “An Evening at the Ruins,” where officials were hoping to leverage the city’s matching grant and “inspire” donors to give towards Clarke Ranch.

“We want to be able to say emphatically, ‘Your dollar is going to be matched” by the city, said foundation President Janelle Sellick.

Sellick reported on Tuesday that the foundation’s second annual An Evening at the Ruins raised an estimated $140,000. She said they were still calculating expenses, and couldn’t say yet what the net proceeds would be from the event.

Still, the foundation expects to have enough money to fulfill its promise to contribute $50,000 towards Clarke Ranch.

Although council members agreed to match the foundation’s contribution, they admitted the request was unorthodox for multiple reasons.

Not only would the city match funds for a project American Canyon is spearheading — ordinarily it would match funds for an organization’s project — it also hasn’t approved a master plan yet for how Clarke Ranch will be developed.

A draft master plan for the 27-acre property near the wetlands is expected to come before the City Council in October for a vote.

Council member David Oro called the foundation’s request “extraordinary,” coming only four days before the fundraiser.

Mayor Leon Garcia agreed it was extraordinary, but also said the project itself would be an “extraordinary” benefit for the community, “and it deserves our support.”

Oro also expressed concern with the city providing its $50,000 match from a contingency fund, which is usually reserved for unexpected needs or emergencies.

In response City Manager Dana Shigley told the council that the city had received a $113,000 grant from the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Benefit Fund of the Napa Valley Community Foundation.

She said if the city wished to match the parks foundation’s $50,000 for Clarke Ranch, it could do so by using some of the Kaiser Permanente grant.

After the council approved the request, Shigley said the city was “very grateful to Kaiser Permanente and the Napa Valley Community Foundation for this generous grant.”

“The new Clarke Ranch park will provide everyone in American Canyon the opportunity to explore the outdoors and enjoy healthful outdoor activities,” said Shigley. “We are delighted to devote a portion of the grant toward the Clarke Ranch project.”

The parks foundation intends to donate $50,000 for the creation of demonstration gardens, an outdoor classroom to accompany the demonstration gardens, and outdoor exercise stations and trails that would wrap around the existing wetlands viewing area on the south side of Eucalyptus Drive.

These developments are expected to cost $600,000.

A staff report provided to the council said the “use of volunteers, staff time, and phasing” could “reduce the project cost by $100,000 or more, reducing the total project cost to $500,000 or less.”

The council agreed to match the foundation’s $50,000, but without a promise that the city’s portion would go specifically towards the demonstration garden, classroom, exercise stations and trails.

The general commitment to the project was decided after Council member Mariam Aboudamous said it was too soon to dedicate funding without an approved master plan.

“It’s kinda like we’re putting ourselves in a pigeon hole,” said Aboudamous. “I think it would set a bad precedent.”