Although the state , Samuel P. Taylor may manage to avoid the chopping block.
No, the state isn’t going to keep the park open – but a brewery may be.
Lagunitas Brewing Company says it is in the final steps of negotiations with the state to take over the management and funding of the popular San Geronimo Valley park.
“It would include everything from staffing the park to possibly taking reservations,” said Tony Magee, who founded the brewing company in Lagunitas in 1993 when he lived there. Magee now lives in Point Reyes Station and the expanded brewery has moved to Petaluma, but he hasn’t forgotten his local park.
Danita Rodriguez, superintendent of the state parks in Marin said that although they have not yet received any proposal from the company, there is a growing community interest in finding partnerships with parties interested in taking on responsibility for parks like Samuel P. Taylor.
The rest of the parks in Marin threatened with closure – China Camp, Olompali and Tomales Bay – haven’t been as lucky.
The state budget proposed earlier this year to close 70 state parks throughout California in an effort to cut $33 million. Since then, residents, activists and park-enthusiasts have been wringing their hands to come up with some way to keep the parks open.
Assemblymember , co-sponsored by the California State Parks Foundation, to make it easier for the state to enter into private management agreements. That bill is expected to be voted on in September.
But, even with the bill making it easier to enter into operating agreements, there still has to be someone willing to sign on the dotted line.
In Sonoma, the Parks Alliance of Sonoma has formed to find private partnerships for parks, like the possible Lagunitas Brewing Company one, and raise funds to keep the parks open.
The alliance was initiated by the Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma County Regional Parks and the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District but now includes other organizations interested in staving off park closures.
The effort to find partnerships is beginning to get underway in Marin, said Rodriguez, and a meeting is planned in two weeks with various stakeholders, including non-profits and Marin land managers.
Jeff Emory, director of communications for the California State Parks Foundation, is concerned about the timing. “There’s a lot of people who are very upset about China Camp, but there’s no organized effort yet,” he said.
Rodriguez said that given Marin County's concern about open space, she wants to make sure that proposals put forward are reviewed with community input. "It needs to have a community test," said Rodriguez.
Resource protection, a recreation component and preserving the park for future generations are all factors that Rodriguez said need to be considered in any agreement. "We're looking for a three to five year agreement," said Rodriguez. "We want to make sure that any proposal instills the philosophy and values of what state parks are about."
Magee explained that, under his proposal, the parks staff that currently mans Samuel P. Taylor would be moved by the state to other vacancies around California. In turn, a nonprofit organization set up by Lagunitas Brewing Company would hire people to work throughout the park. Most likely, he said, the Sheriff’s Department would pick up the law enforcement aspect of patrolling, which would mean younger (and cheaper) people could be hired to put on programs, man the booths, and provide information to campers.
Though the operating budget for the park is closed to $1 million, Magee said, the park takes in revenue for camping reservations. And with cheaper staffing and no long-term pensions, he thinks the nonprofit could “come pretty close to breaking even.”
Even though nothing is finalized, Magee said he’s getting calls from ranchers, bikers, campers and county supervisors in support.
“Everyone’s pretty excited,” he said.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article identified Sonoma County Regional Park Foundation as the coordinating group to save state parks. It has been changed to Parks Alliance of Sonoma.