As Larkfield-Wikiup rebuilds after October’s wildfires, parks are a priority
Larkfield-Wikiup may get a couple of new neighborhood parks and possibly its own recreational organization to manage them if the efforts of some October fire survivors and others prove successful.
Park advocates say the unincorporated community north of Santa Rosa has long lacked enough green, open spaces for families to enjoy the outdoors within walking distance of their homes. Already, a few opportunities have emerged for new parks, namely a burned property in the Larkfield Estates subdivision and part of the former Wikiup Golf Course.
Fire survivors have formed a committee to discuss the issue regularly. Supporters are contemplating a few different organizational structures to help create and maintain the new parks, any of which would require a public vote if they decide to fund the effort through new taxes, said Brad Sherwood, who lost his Larkfield Estates home in the Tubbs fire.
“There is a movement moving forward to better organize parks and recreation in Larkfield-Wikiup,” Sherwood said. “We want to leverage the fire recovery opportunities along with development opportunities.”
One of the potential park locations is the Brighton Drive site where Jack Symons’ former house was destroyed in October. Symons, 78, and his 75-year-old wife built the home five decades ago, back when they had only one neighbor and there was still an orchard growing nearby.
After flames wiped out the subdivision, Symons and his wife bought a home in Cloverdale because “it’s gonna be years before the neighborhood gets back to halfway normal,” he said. He’d like to see the site of his old home, which is about 1.5 acres, become a new park.
“We lived there for 50 years, and there’s never been a park,” Symons said. “I just thought it would be an asset to the neighborhood.”
Another potential park location is the old Wikiup Golf Course, which is owned by the family behind the Kendall-Jackson wine empire. The family bought the property in 2015 and only recently revealed itself as the owner, viewing the site as an opportunity to help the Larkfield-Wikiup and Mark West area recover from the fires’ devastation.
The Banke-Jackson family has envisioned a combination of uses for the 31-acre property, with a possible park or open space on about 16.5 acres and homes on the remainder, though details are still in flux, according to Tony Korman, a spokesman for the family.
But the family hasn’t decided exactly what the park should look like as part of the project, which the owners are calling Wikiup Commons.
“That’s not something that we are going to dictate or mandate,” Korman said. “We’re opening this up to the community.”
The proposed development has already encountered resistance from some homeowners in the area, particularly where construction of new homes is being considered on land that’s now de facto open space. White and red signs with “NO” painted on them were hung on parts of the property in apparent opposition to what the Banke-Jackson family has proposed.
But the family is trying to work through its plans with the community at multiple neighborhood meetings. The next is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Sept. 12 at San Miguel Elementary School.
Homes rise in communities
Meanwhile, the community’s rebuilding continues to show steady progress, particularly around Mark West Springs Road and Old Redwood Highway, where entire neighborhoods were reduced to rubble in October.