QUESTION: It appears that two major regional park projects are being proposed within a few miles of each other on Tuolumne Road: county project at Standard Road and the property being purchased from Sonora High. Is anyone coordinating this? What kind of facilities can we realistically expect from each, and is it appropriate that this much expenditure should be occurring so close together (and so close to existing Standard Park)? What about other areas of the county where there are essentially no public recreational facilities (like all of District 2)?
ANSWER: The location of the park the county wants to build has not been decided, Daniel Richardson, the General Services Agency director for Tuolumne County, said. Early conversation focused on the property owned by Sierra Pacific Industries on the corner of Tuolumne and Standard roads across from the park.
But Richardson’s staff has also talked with officials at Columbia Elementary, which has a good bit of land around the school, and with Tenaya Elementary, which is in District 2.
The county hopes to qualify for a grant from the state to build a regional park. Tuolumne County owns six parks, none of which could be considered regional. Besides Standard with its baseball fields (also used for soccer), the county has a baseball park in Columbia and another in Jamestown, two passive parks and a kids’ park near the county library.
The county is collecting information on what sort of park residents want and as heard from people proposing just about every sort of recreation you can imagine — climbing walls to dog parks. In about two weeks, they will post an online survey to gather more input, Richardson said.
The grant application is due in August, and, if successful, the county could get as much as $8 million.
Richardson and Gail Witzlsteiner, a board member for The Park Foundation, which has a contract to buy most of Wildcat Ranch from Sonora High, both said they would like to work closely together as they move through their planning.
They could, in fact, become competitors, because the state program is open to nonprofits as well as government.
Richardson said he hopes to have a meeting with foundation members soon.
Witzlsteiner said, “The Park Foundation worked very hard to acquire property in a centrally located area of the county. We view the close proximity of Standard Park as a benefit for families. If the County’s grant proposal for another park be funded, we will work closely with them to provide complementary activities and offerings.”
The Park Foundation has a contract to buy 112 of the 137 acres Sonora High owns at the corner of Tuolumne and Wards Ferry roads for $1 million.
No formal plan has been announced, but the foundation has mentioned the park would include a stadium, two indoor sports facilities, a disc golf course, tennis courts, sports fields, running trails, and food vendors.
About District 2 and its lack of county-owned recreational facilities, Richardson said, “They deserve high quality services.”
But the reality — at least with regard to this grant — is that any new park must be in close proximity to the greatest number of residents.
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