Timber Harvest

Scrap wood was chipped last August at The Cove on Mount Veeder as crews completed the culling of dead trees that were damaged in the Nuns Fire in 2017. The Napa County Open Space District plans to plant new trees, rebuild the water system, prepare camp sites and build new trails to the Mount Veeder peak.

The Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District has a 2019 to-do list that includes considering a 2020 tax ballot measure so it could do still more in future years.

Dozens of open space district advocates met Jan. 31 inside the Hatt building on downtown Napa’s riverfront. They heard the voter-formed district’s annual report to the public.

“As a government agency, we say, ‘Folks, you created us, this is what we’ve been able to do,’” Open Space District Board Member David Finigan said.

After 12 years of existence, the district owns more than 5,000 acres of open space and has made available more than 50 miles of trails. It manages Moore Creek Park near Lake Hennessey and Bothe-Napa Valley State Park near St. Helena, among other open space destinations.

The written annual report includes a “coming up in 2019” section.

One item is for the district to work with the Land Trust of Napa County and other interested parties to prepare for a 2020 ballot measure. A tax, if passed, would raise money to further preserve open space.

Finigan said a possible tax measure is in the exploration phase.

The Open Space District’s main source of operating revenue is about $1 million annually that the county Board of Supervisors provides from the transient occupancy tax paid by overnight guests to Napa County. This isn’t a guaranteed money source.

In November 2016, voters narrowly failed to give Measure Z the two-thirds vote needed to pass. The proposed quarter-cent sales tax would have raised $8 million annually over 14 years to preserve 30,000 acres of open space, an area greater than all Napa County cities combined.

Another Open Space District goal for 2019 is to expand its Amy’s Grove preserve in the Mount Veeder area and begin biological surveys needed to someday open the land to the public.

The Chamberlain family donated the 50-acre Amy’s Grove property along Dry Creek Road several miles north of the city of Napa in 2015. The Open Space District signed an option agreement last year to buy an additional 164 acres for $880,000.

“We’re pretty much not going to do anything to it,” Open Space District Board President Brent Randol said. “It’s natural. It’s absolutely beautiful – old growth, second growth of redwoods.”

A long-term vision is to tie together Amy’s Grove with The Cove property that is owned by the district and includes the top of 2,680-foot-high Mount Veeder. That would involve working with nearby Enchanted Hills Retreat. People would be able to hike on a loop trail, Randol said.

The district has work to do this year at The Cove. The 160-acre former Girl Scouts camp bought by the district in December 2017 was badly burned when the Nun’s Fire of October 2017 raged on Mount Veeder.

Salvage logging removed hundreds of fire-damaged trees last year. This year, the district plans to plant new trees, rebuild the water system, prepare camp sites and build new trails to the Mount Veeder peak.

The district also has things to do at the 709-acre Suscol Headwaters Preserve. The property is located in the hills southeast of the city of Napa near Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon.

Steps to be taken this year for Suscol Headwaters include completing biological surveys and seeking a county use permit to open the land for public use. Hikers and bikers are to someday be able to take trails from Suscol Headwaters to Skyline Wilderness Park behind Napa State Hospital.

Another 2019 district goal is to enter into a 20-year operating agreement with State Parks to manage Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, which includes the top of Mount St. Helena.

The Open Space District began managing Bothe-Napa Valley and Bale Grist Mill for the state in 2012. But the original contract expired in March 2017 and the district is operating the parks on a month-to-month basis.

In addition, the Open Space District has “de facto” taken on responsibility for Robert Louis Stevenson State Park pending a formal contract, a district report said.

Voters created the Regional Park and Open Space District in 2006 when they passed Measure I by a 54-percent-to-46-percent vote. The district is governed by a five-person Board of Directors that is elected by the public. Each seat represents an area that coincides with a county Board of Supervisors district.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.