Supporters pushing for a Santa Maria Creek Greenway trail are optimistic their plans will align with the county Board of Supervisors’ new goals to locate urban county parks within walking distance of homes.
Ramona Trails Association President Glen Morgan said he and Greenway advocates John Degenfelder and Don Wendt, who are also RTA members, discussed the supervisors’ new direction during a March 15 trails meeting at Dos Picos County Park. Also attending the meeting held in an outdoor pavilion was County Director of Parks and Recreation Brian Albright.
Degenfelder said the recent turnover of supervisors brings renewed hope for the Greenway because its path from Wellfield Park to the Ramona Grasslands Preserve crosses through Ramona. Apartments, houses and stores are located within a quarter-mile of the trail’s proposed path, he said during a March 17 Santa Maria Creek Greenway Zoom meeting.
“Brian Albright thinks the new Board of Supervisors are interested in making county parks closer to citizens,” Wendt said. “He’s optimistic the Greenway could be a good project.”
But, Wendt said, the next step is to have the county invest more money in the project. So far, the county has not been buying easements from property owners. But residents along the Greenway route have indicated in surveys that they’d prefer to sell portions of their land rather than donate easements for a trail. The property in some areas could not be developed anyway because of the saturated soil, Wendt added.
Morgan said county Parks and Recreation staff are cooperating with Greenway plans, but funding needs to be approved in the county’s next July 1 through June 30 budget.
“We would like to fast track the opening of the Santa Maria Creek Greenway but it’s currently unfunded,” said Morgan, defining a fast track as two years. “The county has no funding for staff or time to devote to it. If it’s not a funded project very little, if anything, will get done.”
Degenfelder said a key piece of gathering community support for the Greenway is completing a brochure about the proposed non-motorized trail for hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders. Greenway supporters will be meeting at the end of March to strategize the content and design of the brochure which will highlight the Greenway’s recreational opportunities and community benefits. The group discussed the pros and cons of having the brochure created by county staff vs. taking control of it on their own.
Degenfelder said he hopes to also make connections with the new District 2 county Supervisor Joel Anderson to gain his support for a Greenway trail.
Dawn Perfect, executive director of the Ramona Parks and Recreation Association, said during the March 17 Greenway meeting that Wellfield Park’s new disc golf arena is drawing attention to the nearby Greenway. She said the disc golf players are picking up trash and taking care of the area.
However, Perfect expressed concern that the county is not granting funding requests for Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) funds. The Ramona Community Planning Group approved a recommendation to allocate $700,000 in PLDO funds last August toward the purchase of new Wellfield Park lighting.
“The Board of Supervisors put a hold on those funds and they are not granting funding requests until after the budget is put together for the upcoming year,” Perfect said. “PLDO funds are paid by developers and are identified for certain kinds of projects in Ramona. It has me on alert that the lighting is not moving forward in a reasonable timeframe.”
Wendt said he is continuing to reach out to staff at the Ramona Sheriff’s Department substation to help coordinate a cleanup of the Santa Maria Creek, which he says contains debris and is overgrown with invasive plants such as tall Arundo canes and Tamarisk shrubs.
The next Santa Maria Creek Greenway Zoom meeting is set for 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 21. Visit the Santa Maria Creek Greenway Facebook page for a link to an online connection.