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Santa Rosa city pools, senior center rely on donations

  • Orhan Sarabi put up a sign in Julliard Park in Santa Rosa promoting a fundraiser to save the city pools. (JOHN BURGESS / THE PRESS DEMOCRAT)

Fundraising efforts to save Santa Rosa's city pools and senior center are hitting their stride, but an uphill battle remains to keep the facilities open through the end of the fiscal year.

The city has raised about $20,000 in private donations to date to help spare the popular city facilities from the budget axe, less than a quarter of the amount needed to keep them afloat.

But city officials have high hopes that a 5K run/walk downtown this weekend will boost those efforts. The event, which follows the start of the second annual Santa Rosa Marathon, has 200 participants signed up so far, according to Orhan Sarabi, one of the organizers.

If that number doubles by race day as expected, proceeds from the event and festival afterward in Juilliard Park could add another $12,000 or more to city coffers.

The event is just one of several fund-raising efforts supporters of the pools and senior centers have organized since the City Council first considered cutting the programs in the spring.

Marc Richardson, director of Recreation, Parks & Community Services, said he has been humbled and gratified by the various donation efforts to date.

“It's amazing to see the response that the community has had to come and help us,” Richardson said.

As encouraged as he is by the support, Richardson worries that it may not be enough to see them through the year.

The $92,000 shortfall in his budget — $70,000 for the Ridgway and Finely pools and $22,000 for the Bennett Valley Road senior center — could grow because of a troubling trend. Since raising fees across the board for everything from fencing to flower arranging, fall registrations for recreation programs appears to have dropped sharply.

Last year, the first week of sign-ups for the department's fall activities drew in nearly $90,000. But this year, following fee increases of 15 to 25 percent, that figure fell to $64,000, a 28 percent dip, Richardson said.

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