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Browning Elk Grove parks get second chance after neighbors volunteer for fee hike

For neighbors in the area, it's a day and night difference at Edie MacDonald Park. After opting into a fee hike, some parks are being restored.

ELK GROVE, Calif. — Funding cuts left some Elk Grove parks "browned out" with overgrown grass, however, after neighborhoods volunteered for a fee hike, at least two parks are getting restored.

“It just shows how sensitive the funding is and how fairly minimal service cuts – cutting water and cutting some landscape services – what a drastic effect it can have,” said Steve Sims, parks superintendent for Cosumnes Community Services District.

MacDonald Park and Perry Park were two of the many parks in Elk Grove that were in the underfunded Benefit Zone 3. At MacDonald Park, it led to service cuts that left grass dry and overgrown on half of the park.

The dry and untamed grass stood in stark contrast to the area’s award-winning efforts with their parks.

RELATED: Elk Grove parks browning out due to funding shortages, service reductions

Funding changes course for Elk Grove parks

“The wake-up call was about a year ago at this time when we cut services in this area of town and residents - specifically from the MacDonald Park and Perry Park areas - they were called to action and wanted to get involved in figuring out a way to reverse the direction we took,” Sims said.

As an answer for MacDonald Park, some neighbors will have a fee increase as high as $172.67. Others, depending on their location in relation to the park, are paying $156.97.

Over at Perry Park, the costs will be either $93.52, $98.44, $108.29.

These rates are in addition to a base rate of $135.29 a homeowner in Benefit Zone 3 pays.

The new rates essentially cover the cost of doing business: taking care of the park, paying contractors for maintenance, paying SMUD for electricity, paying for water, and money for staff oversight.

According to Josh Branco, Management Analyst with CCSD, those increases have already been paying off at the two parks. Despite a wet winter, he said the restored irrigation and maintenance at the park is why it looks dramatically different.

"If you go to other parks in Benefit Zone 3 that have not passed an overlay assessment or an improvement district for their neighborhood, they’re brown much like MacDonald was last year,” he said.

Where does the money go

According to Josh Branco, management analyst with CCSD, the increased fee is actually getting people more than what they had before.

“That’s really what we talk to people about when we go out to these other parks because, in almost every case, there’s something that can be improved and will be improved if we’re able to secure funding,” he said.

That extra money goes toward the following:

  • Landscape Water & Mowing
  • Shrub Bed Replanting & Landscape Bark
  • Long-term savings for equipment replacement

MacDonald Park

Money from the increased fee will essentially transform MacDonald Park into a whole new park. You can expect walkways and separate play structures based on age. Perhaps most noticeably, the second half of the park will finally be pushed into development. 

A park design meeting is scheduled for September 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Roy Herburger Elementary School. The new finished park is expected in about two years.

Perry Park

The most immediate change will be improved amenities, barbecues, picnic tables, and improved trash cans and benches. However, with some funds being saved, they’ll be able to replace park elements as they break instead of being forced to remove them.

What comes next for the other browning parks

CCSD is planning on outreach efforts about what a fee increase would bring to the neighboring communities in the Benefit Zone 3.

Lombardi, Jones, Amundson, and Karamanos Park have all held their outreach meetings. The following communities are currently queued:

  • Tuesday, July 23: Sheldon Place, 6 - 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, August 11: Fales Park, 2 - 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 15: Arcadian Village, 6 - 7 p.m. 
  • Tuesday, August 20: Hrepich Park, 6 - 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 12: Gage Park, 6 - 7 p.m.

The meetings lead to a survey in the fall. Depending upon responses, they'll determine whether to put out a ballot measure for the increase.

CCSD is looking to pass one or more overlay assessments so all the parks in the benefit zone can be brought up to their standards.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect that the new fees are paid in addition to base rates of $135.29 currently paid by homeowners.

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