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Group working to purchase vacant firehouse in hopes of creating community center, park

The rustic building with knotty-pine walls in central Graton was a gas station, train depot and most recently a fire station topped with a siren that sounded noon and weekly training as well as real disasters.

The next use of the old station is up in the air.

The siren and the firetrucks are now gone, relocated to a new $3.5 million station for the all-volunteer Graton Fire Protection District, and the old building and its half-acre site are for sale.

A local group is making a serious run at trying to turn it into a park and community center, something that bucolic Graton doesn't have.

The recently formed Graton Green Group has offered $350,000 in a lease-purchase proposal after raising $85,000 in pledges from 70 individuals, said HolLynn D'Lil, leader of the effort.

The listing price for the property is $429,000 and the fire district has already received one cash offer for the site, although it was withdrawn over concerns about possible soil contamination. More offers are expected.

"We are asking the fire board to give us a chance," D'Lil said. "We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for a chance."

D'Lil said they are hoping the board will take into account the community good that would be created by having a park, and were heartened after a two-hour meeting with district directors Tuesday, in which the board at least promised to continue discussions on their idea.

Deputy Chief Bill Bullard, however, said while the board may give extra weight to the community benefit, it still may boil down to a financial decision.

"The board likes the idea of a park and the perception I have is all the board supports the park," Bullard said. "The challenge is balancing the park idea with the financial responsibilities of their position, representing 7,000 taxpayers."

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