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City eyes river park annexation
The Colusa City Council is considering whether to annex the state park — and possibly the larger surrounding area — as part of its general effort to turn the riverfront into a centerpiece attraction.
The idea has been discussed in the past, but not with the current council.
Councilman Greg Ponciano, who joined the council in December, said he has not made up his mind whether it will work for the city.
"I have to do some research on it, but like everything else, it has advantages and disadvantages," Ponciano said.
Attempts to reach new Councilwoman Marilyn Acree were unsuccessful. She was elected to the council with Ponciano, and both were in Sacramento this week taking new council-member training seminars through the League of California Cities.
City Planner Bryan Stice made a brief presentation to the council on Tuesday, and in an interview on Thursday, said the idea has merit.
Although the staff has not made a recommendation, Stice believes there is a general value to bringing the area into the city — if only for the ease of planning for the use of the riverfront as a whole.
The park and surrounding area are already part of the city's General Plan sphere of influence.
He notes the city is already operating the Colusa Sacramento River Recreation Area, and said when contacted about the idea, State Parks officials seemed at least receptive to the idea.
At the heart of the riverfront vision is the proposed construction of a new boat ramp and related facilities.
The city will be taking the project to the state in April in an effort to secure a construction grant for the estimated $2.8 million project.
The bigger vision includes the city's own boat docks, but the estimated $300,000 needed for that would have to come from other sources, city officials said.
Still, they would like to combine the two projects and have them done at the same time, and under the same state and federal permits that will allow the work on the river.
City officials are hopeful the ramp, at least, is good to go for several reasons, including the fact the state has already spent $340,000 on planning and design costs. It is not likely to happen, however, until 2015, city officials said.
The operators agreement with the city, while creating a deficit for the city now, has been viewed largely as a success by the city and the state.
Since taking over operations at the park, the city has received $34,935 in revenue and has spent $39,854. The difference is largely due to a one-time sign expense.
The city also is hoping to recover some of the $4,929 deficit from millions in park funds that were found in secret accounts.
But the annexation could also include a larger area of undeveloped riparian habitat.
Whether or not some of that area could be returned to the campground uses it once had is uncertain, but picnic areas and nature trails certainly are possible, Stice said.
Stice said annexing the area would clean up some jurisdiction issues concerning public safety, and provide better and consistent services to the park users.
However, law enforcement and fire services are also some of the concerns.
"I do have some concerns," police Chief Ross Stark said. "It is a huge chunk of ground and a lot of undeveloped ground."
He said patrolling the area would be difficult, and any kind of pursuit in the area has it own troubles.
"We don't have (all-terrain vehicles) like the Fire Department. ... We would have to scrape up some equipment," Stark added.
Still, he is not opposed to the project, and recognizes some of the potential benefits.
"It would be a challenge, but we could do it," Stark said.
Stice said another advantage could be the city could charge a transient tax on campground use, although that was not part of the council presentation.