With the help of a new website, and the passion of a mother with a 5-year-old son, there is renewed hope to find the funding to keep Zinfandel Park maintained, and within the hands of the residents.
The park is located in the Zinfandel subdivision, which lies just south of the St. Helena city limits. The subdivision was built in 1985 and currently has 88 homes. The park property originally belonged to the developer, and after a series of lawsuits, the property was given to the subdivision, in a trust.
Over the years, a handful of neighbors in the volunteer homeowners association have been trying to maintain and improve the park. Someone replaced part of a fence, someone else contributed a cement picnic table, and another resident paid to have a ditch covered in front of the park for safety and additional parking. Still, funding has been an ongoing issue.
“We are in a loophole,” Roxanne Prager, Zinfandel subdivision association secretary, wrote in an email. “We have no way of raising money outside the neighborhood because we do not meet the criteria for Napa County Open Space funding, or any county or government or private grants.”
The homeowners association currently hopes to get a County Assessment on the ballot passed this year, so that a certain dollar amount per year is collected from each home in the neighborhood to maintain the park.
“Otherwise, we remain the same, and collect dues from the regular 12-20 people, year after year, and ask the same people to be burdened with maintenance of the land, mowing, trimming trees, spreading bark and fixing fences,” Prager wrote.
There have also been ongoing differences of opinion with regard to what to do with the park, keep it or sell it, and apathy on the part of some of the Zinfandel residents. After years of shouldering the burden of the park’s upkeep, it was rumored that some of the board members wished to relinquish that responsibility and sell the property.
Enter Jayne Gonzales, who frequents the park with her 5-year-old son, Nico. A couple of weeks ago, she drew a chalk flower on the basketball court. A day or so later, after hearing a rumor that three houses were going to be built on the property, Gonzales took a flashlight and in the middle of the night wrote “We love our park” next to the flower as a statement of support for the park.
“I got upset and worried. I’ve been coming to this park my whole life. We have Easter egg hunts here, it’s like an extension of my grandma’s backyard,” Gonzales said. “I’m young and a newcomer and want to show that this park is loved. But I don’t know how to go about doing that, to get funding here consistently. All I want is to be able to keep my park that I’ve been coming to my whole life.”
Initially, Gonzales said she wanted to be a voice for people who care about the park but have too much going on in their lives to get involved. However, after talking to those involved with maintaining the park, she feels like she opened a can of worms, especially when another rumor circulated that Supervisor Diane Dillon was in favor of selling the park, which turned out to be untrue.
“I don’t know why this rumor got started. I’ve been there the last 11 or 12 years to support them (the board) any way I can. I’ve always said, ‘It’s your park. This is for all of you to decide and I’ll help you with the outcome,’” Dillon said.
Gonzales said she felt misinformed and her efforts were not appreciated.
“All I’m trying to do is bring it to people’s attentions that I care and other people care, to anyone who cares about keeping open spaces,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said she has gotten positive feedback from other residents and will continue to lobby for the park. She has been in contact with Dillon and is optimistic that a solution will be found.
“All politics aside, my goal is to preserve the park for the community to enjoy, for me to enjoy, and for future generations.”
A website has been set up as a way to generate awareness and funds for the park, at ZinfandelPark.com.