October 9, 2008
Measure WW Would Extend Bonds for Parks
By Doug Siden
IN 1988, voters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties approved a measure that has preserved 34,000 acres in parks and open space throughout the region and played a major role in defining quality of life in the East Bay. This November, voters will decide whether to renew this powerful tool.Through Measure AA, voters authorized East Bay Regional Park District to sell $225 million in bonds over 20 years. With the funds generated by the sales, the district has been able to create or expand 17 new regional parks and more than 100 miles of trails, and fund hundreds of local recreation projects -- all to serve the recreational needs of a burgeoning population and protect the environment. The district also was able to leverage this money to gain another $160 million by getting matching funds from public and private sources, stretching the taxpayers' dollars even further.
The demand to preserve open space for recreation, protect and restore habitat, and provide for local recreation projects continues to grow. In response, the district's board of directors decided to ask voters to extend the life of AA in response, approving this year's Measure WW on the November ballot in most of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Measure WW requires two-thirds majority vote to pass, and its key provisions include:
-- Continuing the tax at the existing level -- no increase -- at a maximum annual rate of $10 per $100,000 assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $400,000 would pay $40 per year.
-- Approval of a $500 million bond issue, to be sold in increments over approximately 20 years. It provides that 75 percent would fund regional park acquisition, habitat preservation and parkland development. A reserve fund of $26.2 million would be established to meet unanticipated needs and opportunities.
-- Continuing the local grant program in which communities and local park agencies receive grants based on population for locally- determined recreation projects. Measure AA has financed 235 such local grant projects since 1988. Under WW, another $125 million would be available for such local projects in the two counties.
East Bay Regional Park District approved a detailed list of specific projects to be funded through WW. The list has been developed over two years in a community-involved process and can be viewed online at www.ebparks.org, or a copy ordered by calling 1- 888-EBPARKS (327-2757). For example, Measure WW would finance such regional projects as: Purchase and preservation of scenic ridges and habitat at Mission Peak; trail connections from Garin in Hayward to Pleasanton Ridge; restoration of the Dry Creek/Meyers historic estate in Union City; improvement of Ardenwood Historic Farm facilities; restoration of Robert Crown State Beach and opening of Vargas Plateau in Fremont with new loop trails and camping opportunities.
The district's mission began in 1934 to preserve for public enjoyment the natural beauty of the East Bay. Measure AA allowed us to take great strides toward our goals, and Measure WW will allow us to continue that mission for another 20 years, serving the public and the environment.
Doug Siden, along with Ayn Wieskamp and Carol Severin, are elected members of the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors representing Alameda County, south of Oakland.
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