District 1 Supervisor Cliff Edson hosted a town hall meeting at Valley Springs Elementary School Tuesday, where more than 50 residents showed up to meet election candidates and hear updates from agencies in the county. The evening included a presentation by Foothill Community Parks and Recreation that turned
into the dominating issue of the night.
The presentation was anticipated to last about 15 minutes. An hour later, the topic was still being discussed by residents and organizers.
“We are hoping to develop and build a regional park right here in
Valley Springs,” Zerrall McDaniel told the crowd.
McDaniel is president of the nonprofit parks and recreation organization and has been spearheading the rejuvenated effort to get a park going in Valley Springs.
At Tuesday’s meeting, four members of the group spoke on behalf of the proposed park, and they were met with questions and skepticism by some in the audience.
“There are over 300 miles of trails in Calaveras County, mostly in the Stanislaus National Forest,” said Pat McGreevy, of Glencoe, who helped form the Calaveras County Park and Recreation Commission and is a leading advocate for parks in the county. “We don’t have anything so what we as volunteers try to do is support the local efforts.”
That latest incarnation of the Valley Springs effort is a 50-acre proposal on Hogan Dam Road that would be built on land leased from the Calaveras County Water District.
“CCWD was going to use it as a spray field (for tertiary water),” said Dave Tanner, a Valley Springs resident and park designer, who has volunteered his time to help develop the plans. But about half the land is in a floodplain, which sent CCWD elsewhere for its water disposal needs.
“CCWD is willing to rent this to us at a very reasonable price,” McGreevy told the crowd.
Foothill Community Parks and Recreation is surveying the public to determine what features would be most popular at the proposed site, and thus far, soccer and baseball fields have proven to be most popular. A skate park is next in line, along with an adventure playground and dog park.
But planners have also speculated about an equestrian center, an amphitheater, basketball courts, trails and even clay tennis courts.
“We’re in a preliminary investigative state, figuring out the data, figuring out what the challenges are,” McDaniel said.
A few of those challenges arose Tuesday night, when the proposed park was met with ire by some people in the crowd and with general skepticism from others.
One resident and his wife questioned the funding required to pay for the project, including the ongoing maintenance that would be needed. He was not interested in building a new park.
He said he didn’t move to Calaveras County “because of this fancy city stuff. That’s what we moved away from,” the disgruntled man said before exiting the gym mid-meeting.
For others, however, the information presented by the parks and recreation organization simply didn’t seem to add up.
“We’re surrounded by all sorts of parks and recreation here in Valley Springs,” said Burson resident Mike Wietrick, who took issue with the idea that few recreation options are available in the tri-reservoir area. “Jenny Lind Veteran’s Memorial District – that property is 37 acres. There’s a park there right now. … There’s only maybe one acre that’s used for (the building).”
Wietrick is an elected member of the memorial district and he was dismayed that no one from Foothill had reached out to the district for input. He volunteered his contact information to the organization in hopes that might change.
Edson took to the microphone and tried to find a solution amid the dissension and it centered on one thing: collaboration.
“We can sit in a room divided or we can maybe come together and find a better way,” he said. “I just have a real problem with people just shaking their head (no) all the time. That will stop (progress) from happening.”
Other news from the town hall:
The county’s new Planning Director Peter Maurer used the occasion to introduce himself to the community.
Dave Vaccarezza, of Cal-Waste Recovery Systems – the county’s new contracted trash hauler, also introduced himself.
Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District gave an update on the past, present and future efforts of the district.
Sheriff Gary Kuntz was also on hand to give a report from the Sheriff’s Office, which included an overall reduction in crime, according to Kuntz. The details of that reduction were questioned by his opponent in the sheriff’s race, Pat Garrahan.
Other election candidates also made appearances at meeting, including Department 1 judge candidate Grant Barrett, Assessor Leslie Davis, District 5 Supervisor Darren Spellman, and District 5 supervisor candidates Marti Crane, Steve Kearney and Roy Estakhri.