A report on the first year of the local Measure M – Parks for All sales tax spending is now available and summarizes the various ways Sonoma County and its nine cities allocated $12.4 million in new funding to expand and improve parks in the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Prepared by Sonoma County Regional Parks in collaboration with city parks departments, the report was accepted by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 26.
“Measure M’s first year of funding shows how crucial this revenue is for parks countywide,” said Board Chair Lynda Hopkins. “Thanks to this dedicated source of funding, the county and cities are making real, on-the-ground improvements to parks, trails and playgrounds. We’re increasing access to the outdoors, protecting the environment and connecting communities to the spaces and programs that make us stronger, healthier and happier.”
Sonoma County voters passed Measure M in November 2018. The measure provides a one-eighth-cent sales tax to improve and expand parks operated by Sonoma County and the municipalities of Cloverdale, Cotati, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma and Windsor.
The sales tax provides funding for 10 years. Regional Parks annually receives two-thirds of the monies, with the remaining third divided among the cities, based on population.
Regional Parks used its first-year funds – nearly $8.3 million – to provide Sonoma County residents and visitors with a variety of park improvements and investments. The funding helped expand parkland and trails, including the Cooper Creek expansion at Taylor Mountain and the Lawson Trail at Hood Mountain, and helped improve wildlife habitat at Tolay Lake and other parks.
Funds also helped pay for renovations to the Doran Regional Park boat launch, expanded recreation programs for underserved communities, increased use of grazing and prescribed fire to reduce wildfire risk, the purchase of modern public safety equipment for rangers, the installation of energy efficient lighting at Arnold Field in Sonoma and other projects.
The cities shared more than $4.1 million in Measure M monies in fiscal year 2019–20. They reported using Measure M funds to finance projects such as rebuilding fire-damaged parks, renovating aging playgrounds and sports courts, completing fire-safe landscaping and other activities.
“This annual report highlights our collective successes,” said Melanie Parker, Regional Parks’ deputy director and Measure M administrator. “We’re proud of what was accomplished, especially in a year that included immense challenges and unprecedented need for parks and outdoor recreation services.”
Before being sent to the Board of Supervisors, county and city parks representatives worked with a citizen oversight committee that reviewed Measure M spending and inspected the annual report to ensure expenditures complied with the measure’s intent.
“We’re committed to maintaining trust and transparency with how these funds are used,” Parker said. “Together, parks agencies are working to deliver benefits to all Sonoma County residents who depend on city and county parks for their health, well-being and important connections to the natural world.”