Local open space advocates want Napa County to once again try to buy the state land that is used for Skyline Wilderness Park – and they have a sense of urgency.
In 2010, the state Legislature approved a bill that would have allowed the county to buy the 850 acres used for the park southeast of the city of Napa. But the state and county never agreed on a fair market purchase price, and the legislation expired last January.
On Monday, the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District recommended that the county renew its purchase effort. This comes at a time when some open space advocates suspect the state’s long-term goal is to turn the park into a quarry.
The district’s goal and role is to do everything it can to protect Skyline park for all the residents of Napa County, district Board of Directors President David Finigan said during the meeting.
Step one would be for the county Board of Supervisors to seek renewed state legislation allowing the state to sell the land.
“The state needs to have legislative authorization before it can sell land to the public or any party, for that matter,” district General Manager John Woodbury said.
Skyline Wilderness Park has more than 20 miles of trails winding through oak-covered hills on state land adjacent to Napa State Hospital. The county has a 50-year lease with the state to use the land as a park, with the lease expiring in 2030.
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But the state recently filed an application with the county asking to have the land rezoned. The Board of Supervisors in 2009 voted the land could be used only for recreation and agriculture, should it ever pass into private hands.
That state application included the claim that the county’s 2009 zoning overlay violates the lease. An open space district report says this raises the possibility that the state might attempt to break the lease and sell the land soon.
Removing the zoning overlay could allow the state to someday sell the land at a higher price, the district report said.
Adding to fears is the state’s move in 2013 to expand its Bay Area map of important rock aggregate sources to include Skyline Wilderness Park. Some park advocates have expressed concern that Skyline might end up as a quarry.
Where the county might find the money to buy Skyline is a question mark. The open space district has suggested the county place a quarter-cent sales tax on the November ballot to fund all types of local open space and watershed protection measures. The Board of Supervisors said Tuesday that it might be willing to do this. Grants are another possibility.
Regardless of the ultimate funding source, very little can be done to permanently protect Skyline without first obtaining legislative authorization for a possible sale, a district report said.
The Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District board has stated its opinion. The next step — if there is one — would be for the Board of Supervisors to add the Skyline issue to its list of state legislation to seek in 2016.