It is hard to know what is really going on from this article in the Sacramento Bee , but what we do know from the history of County Park’s general management, is that they have been mismanaging the public’s park system for many years, and any group that is willing to come in and take care of any part of it in the manner which is appropriate to enhance public benefit, should be thanked rather than criticized.
“Wander through Gibson Ranch Park in Elverta and it’s easy to see Sacramento County’s neglect.
“Weeds sprout through alligator cracks in the parking lots. Chain-link backstops on the horseshoe pits are twisted and torn. Overgrown irrigation ditches slow the flow of water to the fields where horses graze.
“In its third year of budget shortfalls, Sacramento County has decided it no longer can afford to run the park, which has cost about $600,000 a year to operate. And behind the scenes, a battle has taken shape over who will take control of the 350 acres of public parkland, which features a horse ranch and riding trails, picnic areas, a nature preserve and small fishing lake.
“Among those vying to take over the operation: local developer and former Rep. Doug Ose, who proposes leasing the land from the county and running the operation as a private enterprise.
“I’m appalled at the politics that are going on with public land,” said Beth DeCaprio, executive director of the Grace Foundation of Northern California, a nonprofit group that county officials have approached about running the park’s horse operation on an interim basis.
“The effort to hand off Gibson Ranch marks the latest in a string of county “fire sales,” as the cash-strapped government looks to offload programs to outside groups that pledge to continue providing services to the public. In recent months, the county has ceded control of its homeless program, the Meals On Wheels program for the elderly and the Effie Yeaw Nature Center to nonprofit groups.
“The tussle over Gibson Ranch, however, has prompted by far the most acrimony, with horse lovers accusing the county of forcing out the current ranch operators, and some nonprofit officials worried Ose wants to turn the park into an exclusive club.
“The parks department has held several meetings with horse owners and nonprofit leaders to discuss the future of Gibson Ranch, said Janet Baker, director of the county Regional Parks Department.
“In my 25 years of parks and recreation, they have been the nastiest meetings I’ve attended,” Baker said.
“Just under half the acreage at Gibson Ranch Park is devoted to horses. The land features stables where owners can board their horses, pastures where the animals can graze and trails where owners can ride. Some horses are also available for public rides.
“L&M Concession Management, which has contracted to run the horse operation since 1992, has a devoted following among horse owners.
“Those people take care of my horses,” said Carmel Curtis, who was on a waiting list seven years before she could board her three horses with L&M. “I want to be able to go to bed at night and know they’re being taken care of.”
“In addition to the horse operation, the park offers picnic sites, a playground, the fishing lake and other public areas that are county-maintained. Until the most recent round of budget cuts, the park was open seven days a week, with a $5 parking fee for those without an annual pass.”