You take a visitor out and about to show off your wonderful city, and the parks – our most public of public places – look neglected and abandoned.
Heritage parks such as Juilliard – across the street from the home of “plant wizard” Luther Burbank – and Doyle – given as a gift to Santa Rosa nearly a century ago – are brown, dry and derelict.
The city has spent more than $2 million watering these and other parks over the past three years, yet the grass is still dead, the weeds are still dominant and the soil is still rock-hard.
So what's the solution?
That was the question before the Santa Rosa City Council on Wednesday, the second day of the council's annual round of budget hearings. And the answer was “nothing,” at least for now. According to staff writer Kevin McCallum's report, council members agreed that they'd like to spend more for irrigation and maintenance of city parks, but they don't agree on where the money should come from. So City Manager Kathy Millison will get 60 days to come up with a plan.
Sixty days that just happen to coincide with plenty of hot, dry weather, which means my neighborhood park on North Street will probably qualify as a fire hazard by the end of August. Unless it just dries up and blows away before then.
You have to feel a little sympathy for the City Council. They don't want our parks to turn into dusty scars on the face of Santa Rosa. But irrigation costs already are $180,000 over budget for this year, and even doubling this year's water budget won't guarantee “green and lush and fabulous” parks next year, Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips told the council.
And, as Councilman Ernesto Olivares pointed out, the council faces a lot of competing priorities for a limited pot of tax dollars.
“I know that our parks are valuable, but I'll tell ya, if you find another $400,000 sitting around, I have some homeless people who could use it; I have some people living in substandard homes that could use it,” Olivares said.