From the 2.2.11 issue. To read all of this week’s articles, subscribe!
By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
A new neighborhood park is being proposed near School Road in McKinleyville on a parcel of surplus property owned by the McKinleyville Union School District.
At a meeting of the McKinleyville Community Service District (MCSD)’s Recreation Advisory Committee held on Jan. 27, two neighborhood residents presented the committee with a petition signed by about 50 people encouraging MCSD to build the park.
MCSD Parks and Recreation Director Jason Sehon said that his agency is currently in negotiations with the school district to purchase part of the surplus 10-acre site. While it is unlikely that MCSD will buy the entire parcel, it is interested in purchasing at least three acres and possibly five.
When trying to sell surplus property, a school district must first offer the property at a discount to a local park district, according to state law.
“If we don’t want the full acreage, they offer 1/3 of the property at 25 percent of fair market value. So the appraisal I saw would be $57,000 for three acres. That’s a heck of a deal,” said Sehon.
Part of the school’s property is on a fault line, making it unsuitable for housing or a school building.
When developers build a project, they must pay the county a fee in lieu of building parks for the new residents. This fee goes into a pool of money called the Quimby fund. MCSD gets 60 percent of the Quimby funds generated by local developments. Because two large developments are being constructed in the School Road area, Sehon said that he expects to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Quimby fund, more than enough to pay for the land’s acquisition, construction of facilities, and future maintenance costs.
In addition, a state grant has become available, and Sehon said that MCSD’s chances of winning it are good. The purpose of the grant is to provide parks in areas that don’t have any within a one-mile radius. Residents in most of south McKinleyville are more than a mile away from Hiller Park, Pierson Park, and the State Azalea Reserve.
The crucial factor in earning in a good grant score is the enthusiasm of neighborhood residents, measured by their participation in the planning process, and their attendance at meetings.
The neighborhood couple who had collected the signatures said they would keep talking to people in the area, and encourage them to participate.
If Measure B is passed by McKinleyville’s property owners, funds from that may also be available for the park, Sehon said.
MCSD is asking interested neighborhood residents what kinds of facilities they would like to see in a new park, such as basketball courts, tennis courts, trails, a par course, a softball field, playgrounds for toddlers, playgrounds for older children, and a serenity garden.
For more information about the proposed park, contact Sehon at 839-9003.
Library meeting room
Parks and Recreation Committee member Mary Kay asked why local non-profit groups were going to be charged $18 per evening to meet at the library’s new extension room. She noted that when the Friends of the McKinleyville Library raised the money to pay for the extension, they envisioned small local groups of residents being able to use the facility for little or no cost.
“This doesn’t serve the community,” she said. “Eighteen dollars is pretty high for a five-person garden club, or small local history club, or the Eagle Scouts.”
“If the Friends of the McKinleyville Library wants to meet there, or the library wants to put on a library program, does it have to pay that?” she asked. “Does the library have to pay a rental fee to go through that door and use that room?”
Committee member David Couch said that Arcata had come across a similar dilemma when they built a new educational and visitor’s center at the Arcata Marsh. The money for the building had been raised by the Friends of the Arcata Marsh. The city decided to give the Friends of the Arcata Marsh first priority in scheduling the room, not to charge the Friends for its use, and to allow them sponsor other local groups that could then use the facility for free.
Sehon said that he had set the fee by comparing it to other local buildings, but that he would investigate further.