Regarding Nick Williams’ wonderful praise of Skyline Wilderness Park (“Gem more precious than asphalt,” March 17): His fine article gave only a partial description of why I spent some eight years organizing the Skyline Park Citizens Association, representing the association in all negotiations with Napa county and the state of California, and overseeing the park's development and construction to bring the park into a reality.
Although I do not represent the association currently, I do possess insight into the formation and operations of the association and of development near the park that no other person has.
Williams' article was spot-on except for one point: Napa county does not "own" the property. The state of California owns the property and leases the property to Napa County for 50 years and the association leases from the county and operates, develops and maintains the park. Skyline Park is the only such type of park in the nation: an 850-acre semi-wilderness park fully operated and maintained by a citizens group without any financial assistance from either the county or the state.
It is totally funded from user fees. You are all welcome to be a part. Contact the Skyline Citizens Association if you would like to get personally involved and be a part of this wonderful wilderness park. That was the design of Skyline from the outset. Now I hear the county is going to try to buy the property from the state yet a second time.
Some false narrative this is so the state won’t sell the property for aggregate mining sometime in the future. The county stated multiple times directly to me personally beginning in 1976 "that the county was not in the Park Business.” But now that Skyline is an unmitigated success, built upon the hard work and dedication of some very fine local citizens over the years, without the county involvement I might add, the county wants to stick their greedy hands into it. So why buy it now? To possibly own the aggregate mining rights?
The current Skyline Park Citizens Association's lease of the park has some 16 more years to go, I believe. Keep your hands and greed out of Skyline Park, Napa County. You already tried to steal the park once to put a huge pumping station for the water project to the Coombsville area on this wilderness park. I personally notified the state of the county's plans and the sale was stopped.
As designed, this Wilderness Park operates just fine with the Citizens Association in control of operations, development and maintenance free of public funds, as it was designed to do. It is quite financially stable. It is not subject to a county budget for operational funds. Once the county government gets their greedy hands on it, the Wilderness Park will be history. County budgets will rule. No telling what new pet projects the county would stick on it. Affordable housing comes to mind. New county buildings?
Proposed housing on the property was why then-Supervisor John Tuteur asked me if I would like to become involved with saving Skyline Park for future generations of users. We used to ride horses together on his property and the adjoining Skyline property. Of course I said yes. Public funds and local government officials will dictate how the park is to be used, and for what purpose? So I ask has government ever operated anything right? The uniqueness of this park will be lost.
As to the current Syar quarry infringement on Skyline Park, this is a major issue. There are far more than just environmental issues involved, which in themselves should stop the quarry enlargement. There is a major public safety issue. The safety buffer distance between the quarry and the upper trails of the park was set at the time (1976) in mitigation requirements. I know this as fact because I was personally involved in setting those safety buffer distances. In fact I insisted on them: No less than 100 feet between the quarry and the Skyline Park fence line.
The county and Syar both know the aggregate is mostly shipped out of county, yet insist upon telling the public differently in order to justify the project. The county benefits financially from taxes on sales, and campaign donations I am sure, by Syar. Once again government shows why it cannot be trusted: greed.
I, too, express my love for Skyline, I invested part of my life into it to benefit my fellow citizens. And I also invite all to visit this wonderful unique wilderness park in your own backyard. You may find you even want to get personally involved. Call the association at the park on how to do this.
Bob Wilkinson, former president
Skyline Park Citizens Association
Editor's note: This letter has been modified from its original form to reflect the fact that there are only 16 more years left on the lease at Skyline.