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Hidden Falls funding fracas falls on Placer supes shoulders now

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The power struggle over $150,000 planned for Placer County’s Hidden Falls Regional Park and opposed by a group led by the Auburn Recreation District lands in the Board of Supervisors’ laps Tuesday. The recreation district board sounded the alarm this past spring about what Director Scott Holbrook described Friday as a “selfish grab” of developer fees for parks. But the proposal to take $150,000 from the district’s area funding to help complete several improvement projects has support from a coalition of park users. The project would build more trails and supply additional parking at Hidden Falls, located between Auburn and Lincoln. Cathy Haagen-Smit, a mountain-biking advocate and secretary of the Folsom-Auburn Trail Riders Association, said the funding will help open up a park and its areas of open space for the benefit of the entire community. Holbrook said the viability of the four-year-old regional park or the value of activities that take place there isn’t at issue when supervisors make a decision Tuesday. “It’s not about trails or open space,” Holbrook said. “The only question should be about the method of funding.” The district contends that the funding would be better-used on projects it has already planned in the area. Holbrook said that most other recreational areas are not being targeted to help fund the park. He suggests the county find the money elsewhere in its budget or take $10,000 from each of the 16 recreation fee areas. Money comes from a pot of developer fees that have decreased dramatically during the current economic downturn. The district has found support from the North Auburn and Newcastle-Ophir municipal advisory councils. The Newcastle MAC also stands to have $46,000 spent on the Hidden Falls expansion project from its area funding for recreation. The county Parks Division has shepherded the issue through several public meeting and has won support for its funding plan from the Meadow Vista and Rural Lincoln municipal advisory councils and the county Parks Commission. In a report, the county Department of Facility Services outlines a funding plan that would secure $150,000 from the Meadow Vista-Auburn recreation area that takes in the Auburn Recreation District, $109,000 from the Lincoln area’s recreation-fee fund, and $46,000 from Ophir-Newcastle. A total of $4.3 million has been allocated for the first stage of the Hidden Falls expansion project. It includes construction of about 20 miles of trails as the park expands from 221 acres to take in 979 more acres. Because of the park’s regional significance, park dedication fees are appropriate funding mechanisms to pay for a portion of the project, Facility Services Director Jim Durfee states in a report prepared for the board. With a $305,000 funding shortfall for the project, failure to complete the public-access portion of the work would put portions of $2.7 million in outside grants in jeopardy, the report states. -------------------------------------------------- Hidden Falls funding proposal --------------------------------------------------What: Placer County Board of Supervisors When: 11 a.m. Tuesday Where: 175 Fulweiler Ave., Auburn