BY ALEXIA UNDERWOOD //
On November 4, voters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties passed Measure WW with 71 percent approval. The measure extended an existing regional park bond measure to the tune of $500 million, to be distributed over the next 20 years.
“I think that it’s a tribute to the people [for] recognizing the value of the park district and wanting to have more parks and more opportunities in the future,” said Jack Kenny, chief of parks for the East Bay Regional Park District.
The bond money will uphold ongoing park district projects including urban creek restoration, wildlife protection and additional land purchases according to park district officials.
The money will also be used to acquire, develop, and improve local and regional parks, trails, and recreational facilities for East Bay residents.
Measure WW is an extension of original bond Measure AA, passed in 1988, which imposed a maximum $10 tax per year on every $100,000 of assessed property valuation, according to the park district website. For the owner of a $300,000 house, this would translate into paying about $30 a year.
Seventy-five percent of the new money will go towards buying new parkland and funding projects, and 25 percent will go to cities and local park districts, like El Cerrito’s.
Kenny explained that the measure allotted for a series of bond sales that take place over 20 years. The property tax begins soon, with the first installment due in December, he said.
Some people were surprised to see the widespread support the measure received, said Kenny. “Especially in really tough economic times, I think that [percentage] is surprising,” he said.
Rosemary Cameron, assistant general manager of public affairs with the park district said cities still had some time to put together their proposals for the bond money.
“We’ll be rolling out all the formal procedural guides on how the local grant program will work – right at the beginning of 2009,” said Cameron. “This isn’t something that cities will have to apply for immediately. They will have several years in which to do this.”