The Oakley City Council last week endorsed a $500 million park bond on the November ballot that would extend but not raise taxes, and provide more than $50 million in park and recreation improvements in East County.
Measure WW, sponsored by the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), is an extension of the expiring Measure AA passed 20 years ago, which provided more than 34,000 acres of regional parkland and shoreline in Contra Costa and Alameda counties along with $60 million for local park and recreation projects.
WW picks up where the $225 million AA left off but more than doubles the amount to be spent while keeping the annual tax rate of $10 per $100,000 of assessment ($40 per year for a $400,000 home) at the same level.
Oakley will receive $1.5 million for city parks and recreation; Antioch gets $4.5 million; Brentwood would receive $2.3 million; and Discovery Bay would get $470,000.
In addition, numerous regional projects would be funded chief on that list for Oakley is $2.6 million for the Delta Science Center on Big Break Road. There is not much science taking place at the center, however, as it consists of just a pier with a nice view of Big Break, plus a parking lot and a restroom.
Councilman Brad Nix expressed concern about the lack of progress and amenities at the science center to Jim Townsend, EBRPD trails development programs manager at the Sept. 9 council meeting. Nix pointed out that the council had just heard a presentation on the Delta Discovery Center that is planned near Rio Vista in which an 8,300-square-foot building is being built for $1.5 million.
In contrast, $6 million has been spent in the past 10 years on the Delta Science Center in Oakley and we have a bathroom and pier, said Nix. And that's not much. What is proposed in terms of building for the $2.6 million for the science center?
In his presentation, Townsend acknowledged that the science center has been a long, frustrating project no question about that. But we are making a lot of progress.
Townsend said he doesn't have details on exactly what will be built next at the science center, but he would get that information to Nix. So far, the land has been purchased along the Big Break waterfront, a pier and trails have been installed and a bridge is under construction to open up a Delta trail.
Townsend added that it's always more complicated and expensive to build anything on or near the water due to environmental regulations and concerns. Currently, dirt fill is being brought in to level the land for construction of science and interpretative facilities.
We would build a building that could be used for interpretive events and naturalist programs, he said, adding that it might contain a map of the Delta similar to the model of the San Francisco Bay in Sausalito. The district has worked really hard and put a lot of time and energy coming up with a concept for a stand-alone Delta Discovery Center.
After listing the projects that would benefit local residents, Townsend said, So, there's a lot of money that would be available for East Contra Costa County that could be leveraged. There's really an opportunity to complete some of the great wildlife corridors and provide much better access to the shoreline. We think this is a real opportunity. This is a great time to buy land, and we want to buy more of it.
Several council members had nothing but praise for the park bond.
This is a community that appreciates parks, trails, open space, places where families can be together outdoors, habitat preservation, said Pat Anderson. I like that there's no change to the fee structure we have right now.
Kevin Romick said he counted nine or 10 projects on the Measure WW list that would benefit East County, and Oakley residents in particular.
When talking to park district officials, Romick said, I told them if they wanted Oakley's support they would have to make sure we were represented fairly. It looks like we have them. I'm impressed with what's going on. We are not asking people to incur additional monies out of their hard-earned checks. For that reason I can support the measure.
Other East County benefits from the park bond include:
$4.5 million to complete the underground trail and museum at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.
$3 million to buy rare vernal pool habitat and wetlands near Byron.
$3.6 million to build a regional park and wildlife corridor in Deer Valley.
$5 million to open a regional park on the Delta at Orwood Tract, providing swimming, boating, fishing picnicking and camping.
$1 million for public access trails, picnicking and camping on Jersey Island.
$4 million for the Great Delta Trail segment from Bay Point to Big Break in Oakley.
$900,000 to complete Marsh Creek Trail connecting Brentwood to Round Valley Regional Preserve.
$8.1 million to expand wildlife corridors in Morgan Territory, providing trails and access to ridge lands south of Mt. Diablo.
$7.2 million to expand Round Valley Regional Preserve, expanding trail access, picnicking and camping as well as connecting trail corridors to adjacent parks.
$4.7 million to expand the wildlife preserve at Vasco Caves as well as improve guided public access to the caves along with parking and visitor facilities.