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Fuller Park tree tour in Napa

Master Gardener Cindy Pitcher, fourth from right, leads a tour of the trees of downtown Napa's Fuller Park in October 2015.

J.L. Sousa, Register file photo

As trees go with parks like hand in glove, so, also, will those who help to guide Napa in preserving both.

Two groups of advisers – the Parks and Recreation and the Tree Advisory commissions – are set to become one after a merger approved earlier this month. Replacing them will be a new seven-person Parks, Recreation and Trees Advisory Commission that will draw members from both its forerunners.

The merger of committees guiding Napa leaders on its open spaces and its greenery should bring both into wider public view and encourage more residents to take an interest in their town, whether as advisers or simply as concerned citizens, according to members of both bodies. They began talks on joining forces last June.

“It would be a growing opportunity for both commissions to lend their expertise to these topics,” John Coates, director of Napa’s Parks and Recreation department, told the City Council Feb. 6 before it cast the first of two votes signing off on a unified advisory team.

A second council approval Tuesday and a 30-day period ending March 22 must take place before the launch of the new body.

Keeping up two commissions and two separate schedules has stretched the attention of city staff and led to lost opportunities to improve park-related projects, Coates said. As an example, he pointed to a master plan for upgrading Kennedy Park that included the suggestion of an “edible forest” of low-maintenance food trees and plants – but that failed to gain any input from the tree commission, which has met only once every two months.

Through a series of meetings since last summer, Napa’s parks and tree advisers gradually warmed to the idea of a single committee to counsel elected officials on all of the city open and green spaces.

“The more I learned about the situation, especially how city staff time can be whittled to nothing, that’s the gold nugget with us,” parks commissioner Mark Lucas said in January when both groups agreed on the merger. “If we can get the staff time, a lot more can get done; that’s why I really do support it 100 percent. I don’t think there will be any diminished capacity for the public (to participate).”

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The four remaining parks commissioners will join with the three people left on the tree committee to form the merged park-and-tree commission. The City Council will reserve three seats on the new body for residents with experience in urban or park planning, horticulture, arboriculture and related fields.

Commissioners will serve two-year terms, staggered so four seats become open in one year and three seats the next. Commissioners are volunteers, serving without pay.

Lucas will move into the new group from Napa’s parks commission, as well Tiffany Kenny, Gary Hercules and Chris Hammaker. Joining from the tree advisory body are Chris Sauer, Seth Pare-Meyer and Jon Huttinger.


City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.