The Napa County Regional Parks and Open Space District is the kind of success story that’s all too rare in local government.
In its 10 years of existence, the district has revitalized Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and the Bale Grist Mill, established new recreational opportunities throughout the county, protected sensitive watersheds from development, facilitated access to landlocked public open space, and forged productive public-nonprofit partnerships – all funded by a small share of the county’s hotel taxes.
Now they’re proposing Measure Z, a quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot that would generate a projected $8 million a year for the next 14 years.
We think they’ve earned it, and they are ready to accomplish so much more with the new funds.
We met last week with Brent Randol, District 3 representative on the district board, and John Woodbury, the district’s general manager who was speaking as a private citizen on his own time. They said the ballot issue requires at least 65 percent of the new funding to be spent on acquisition, at least 25 percent on maintenance, 3 percent on education, no more than 3 percent on overhead like salaries and benefits, and up to 4 percent on other expenses.
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The district’s primary goal with the new funds is to protect natural watersheds, as the district has already done at Moore Creek and the Soscol headwaters.
If protecting the environment also opens up recreational opportunities for the public, then all the better. Randol said the district is always on the lookout for “multiple benefit” projects.
Past performance is a good indicator of future performance, and the district’s track record speaks for itself.
Bothe and the Bale Grist Mill are now self-sufficient, after having lost money and been at risk for closure under the state’s management. In partnership with the Napa Valley State Parks Association, the district has expanded public amenities and recreational options at the two parks, polishing those Upvalley gems until they shine.
Thanks to the donation of a private easement, the district established a ridge trail leading to a huge tract of federally owned land near Lake Berryessa that had previously been landlocked and inaccessible to the public (except by trespassing). This is an example of the district’s knack for using a small piece of property to provide public access to much larger amounts of public land.
The district has also taken over a Boy Scouts camp at Lake Berryessa that the Scouts couldn’t afford to run on their own, and hopes to announce the acquisition of another camp in the next few weeks. The district is working on an agreement with the state to take on a more active role at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, and has already taken over the Napa River Ecological Reserve in Yountville, with great results.
Along the way, the district has worked with nonprofits like the Land Trust of Napa County (both agencies have easements protecting Linda Falls in Angwin), the Napa Valley State Parks Association, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Napa Valley Vine Trail, Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, and Options3, which operates group homes for those with special needs.
For a $40 purchase, a quarter-cent sales tax amounts to only a dime – a small price to pay to support a fiscally prudent agency that’s already proven its ability to do big things with small amounts of money.
Measure Z is opposed by the Napa County Taxpayers Association, but its stance seems to be based largely on ideological opposition to taxes in general.
We don’t love taxes either. But some are better than others, and Measure Z is clearly one of the good ones. A vote for Measure Z is a vote for watersheds, recreation and the public health benefits of going outside and enjoying the environment.
We hope you support it, and we invite you to vote for it on Election Day.