The state Monday awarded $4.8 million to each of the cities of Santa Rosa and Fort Bragg to build new parks, part of $184 million in grants being handed out.
"This is very exciting, we think we will be able to deliver a developed park sooner than we have originally thought," said Rich Hovden, Santa Rosa's park planning and management director. "We thought it would take quite a few years with little sums of money ... this is really a great thing for the community."
The $4.8 million will go toward the development of Bayer Park and Gardens in the Roseland area, a 5.5-acre farm the city acquired three years ago.
The former farm has a barn and farmhouse, which are now being used by LandPaths to establish a community gardening program used by Sheppard School students and by 36 families.
"It's a place that truly connects urban people with agriculture history, and it has great views of Taylor Mountain, said Craig Anderson, LandPaths executive director. "I wish I had a park like that in my neighborhood. It is like grandpa and grandma's own farm."
Under the development plans, estimated to cost $6 million, the city would create a greenhouse, turf-covered play areas, picnic areas, a water fountain, exercise course and event stage, with additional buildings and amenities to continue the agriculture uses.
Hovden said the city is negotiating with LandPaths for the operations and maintenance of the new park.
Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2012.
In Fort Bragg, the state awarded a $4.8 million grant to develop a park on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean on property that was part of the former Georgia-Pacific mill.
The city has acquired 92 acres of the 430-acre former mill site. It includes 3.5 miles of coastline.
For the 125 years the mill operated, it was the economic engine of the city, employing half of the population.
But it was also the only ocean-front property in the blue-collar city, which now for the first time has a waterfront.
The mill closed in 2002 and the property is now slated for a mixture of park, residential, commercial and light industrial development that may include a marine education center and industrial arts center.