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Parks ‘champions’ to sway public

San Benito County Capital Project Manager Adam Goldstone in 2012 points to the location on a map where a regional park will connect with the river parkway.

San Benito County will continue efforts to sustain parks and recreation with a possibility of the county creating Parks and Recreation Champions to conduct public outreach.
Janelle Cox, a management analyst for the county, presented a report to county supervisors July 9 that outlines plans to use the remaining balance of a Health Trust grant for continued outreach efforts and establishing a nonprofit to support parks in the future.
“What we are trying to do is have advocates in the community,” Cox said. “They will participate in the Parks and Recreation commission to develop a brand and marketing.”
Cox referred to the volunteer advocates as “champions” and said they would be able to reach more people in the community than the nine commissioners. At the end of the grant period, the goal is to have an established nonprofit that would continue advocacy through REACH San Benito, an endowment fund established at the Community Foundation for San Benito County.
The Health Trust originally granted the county $61,500 to do a feasibility study to see if county residents would support a special tax district for parks, recreation and library services. The December survey found that although 55 percent of residents supported the tax, support did not reach the necessary two-thirds approval that would be needed by voters to pass such a tax.
Cox submitted a proposal to the Health Trust to use a remaining balance of the grant, $21,445, to continue public outreach efforts for parks and recreation services and was granted an extension to March 2014.
The grant proposal calls for identifying nine community members from at least six different industries or sectors of the community to serve as champions. The champions will be charged with conducting outreach activities with at least 20 constituent groups and hosting two fundraisers during the grant period. Cox also requested putting out a request for qualifications for a consultant to create a parks and recreation sustainability plan.
“My problem with getting a contract on parks and recreations is we have at this time two county parks,” said Supervisor Jerry Muenzer. “We have two parks and recreation commissioners overseeing two parks. I understand the idea of a nonprofit but I’m having a hard time understanding the need for a third body.”
Cox said the goal of creating the champions and eventually a nonprofit would be to have a support group along the lines of the Friends of the San Benito County Free Library, which does outreach, donation collections and fundraisers for the San Benito County Free Library.
Muenzer said he was also concerned about pursuing a special tax district at the same time as a general tax.
“The purpose of going out for a sales tax next year would be to be county wide,” he said, adding that he thought the priority would be a general sales tax in the unincorporated areas rather than a county-wide special assessment district to support parks, recreation and libraries. “The Commission needs to be aware of that. The purpose of general tax is that we can’t say what will be allocated.”
Supervisor Anthony Botelho said he was hesitant to spend more money on hiring a consultant to help with outreach.
“It’s a great concept but it is way ahead of its time right now,” Botelho said. “We need to put it away and deal with some of the issues that are really burning up in this county.”
Supervisor Margie Barrios spoke out in support of all of the potential efforts for parks and recreation.
“I feel it’s so shortsighted as a board if you don’t look at the vision we had as a board,” she said. “We talked about bringing in business. We looked at economic development. This is hard. Eventually this will be the thing that is going to draw people to San Benito County – encourage people to visit and businesses to set up camp here. This is what this is all about.”
Supervisors voted 4-1, with Botelho opposed, to direct staff to move forward with the grant.