It was a love fest on Tuesday when the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and a standing-room-only crowd declared that Annadel State Park must be saved. Here was a show of community support worth celebrating.
Still, the Board of Supervisors knows — and the park's supporters should know — that the hard part lies ahead. State government is a train wreck. County government, while willing to help, is broke. The future of Annadel depends not on government as much as on people's determination to step up and take responsibility for a natural treasure being abandoned by the state.
State government's role in all this is shameful. In effect, the state plans to leave 5,000 acres on the eastern doorstep of Santa Rosa to whatever happens: fire, illegal dumping, illegal camping, vandalism, environmental destruction, marijuana gardens. It's a long list.
Yes, it's true that the governor and the state Legislature ran out of good choices by the time they decided to close 70state parks (including five in Sonoma County). But if politicians hadn't spent a decade running state government into the ditch, this abrogation of responsibility wouldn't be necessary.
If the park is abandoned, by the way, the costs to local agencies and to the public-at-large will likely exceed the savings achieved by state government. When it comes to how state government operates, what else is new?
Trying to encourage a solution, the Board of Supervisors authorized Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart to negotiate a one-year arrangement with the state. Her department would manage Annadel from July 1, 2012, to July 1, 2013. Expected cost: About $350,000. With $189,000 in private donations and $150,000 in cash and in-kind support from the state, the county is only $11,000 away from having the money needed for a one-year operation.
But then what happens? No one labors under the illusion that state government will reassume its responsibility for the park any time soon.
So this proposed agreement buys time to create a sustainable, home-grown solution, powered by some combination of donations, volunteer labor, memberships, parking fees and innovations not yet imagined. It's all part of what Hart calls "a new paradigm" for maintaining parks.
By July, you may be able to buy a park badge for your backpack, bicycle or saddle. Wear it proudly.
All five supervisors endorsed Hart's plan but not without worrying out loud about future obligations.
"It's up to the public and the community to understand that the county doesn't have the capacity," said Supervisor Valerie Brown.
"Short term, it's a pretty easy solution ..." said Supervisor Efren Carrillo. But he wondered, "in the second year, third year, fourth year, how do we respond to the expectations?"
From hard experience, county officials understand state government's capacity to make the rules and pass on the costs. Supervisor Shirlee Zane warned that the county "could be left on the hook by the state on a long-term basis."
Then began a parade of people and organizations eager to help — equestrians, cyclists, hikers, conservation groups, health advocates.
"If you give people responsibility, they will give and give more," said Craig Anderson, executive director of LandPaths. LandPaths will coordinate volunteers if Annadel is managed by the county.
"It's a helluva down payment," said Supervisor Mike McGuire, describing first-year donations, "... the question is, how do we keep the down payments going for the next several years?"