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State takes back Annadel Park

  • Lynne Lewis, right, on Max, and Amy Larsen, on Tequila, ride Tuesday on the Warren Richardson Trail in Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / THE PRESS DEMOCRAT)

The state plans to resume operation of Annadel State Park on July 1, ending a one-year experiment in which the sprawling, rugged open space on the edge of Santa Rosa has been run by the county's Regional Parks division.

“We don't see this as a take-over or a take-back; Sonoma County has been a great operator,” state parks spokesman Roy Stearns said. “We want to keep working with them as a great neighbor,” in cooperation with the adjacent Spring Lake Regional Park.

Operational details of the management change are still being worked out between state and county lawyers, Stearns said. The resumption of full state control at the 5,000-acre park is part of a $10 million program to restore state operations at the 70 parks the department had attempted to close in 2012 because of budget cuts.

All of those parks ended up remaining open after various non-profits, volunteer groups and local governments stepped forward to take over the management.

The money comes out of a parks fund of more than $20 million that auditors uncovered after the closure plan was announced. Investigators reported that the state parks agency had concealed the size of its reserve fund for more than a decade, running up a huge secret surplus.

The news outraged park advocates who had gone to considerable effort to prevent the closures and it led to a shake-up at the top of the department. The legislature later authorized using half the money to restore state operations in at least some of the 70 parks, with the other half going to major repair work at parks that had not been threatened with closure.

The four other parks in Sonoma County that were on the 2012 closure list will remain under control of local nonprofits, all of which had longer-term agreements with the state: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park near Kenwood, Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park and Austin Creek State Recreation Area in Guerneville. The operators of those parks are eligible to apply for a portion of the $10 million, under which the state resumes operations and agrees at least to match the contributions of local park advocates, Stearns said.

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