County parks will ask voters to extend Measure A sales tax

01/29/2020

Marin County Parks will ask voters in November to renew a quarter-cent sales tax that supports parks, open space and agricultural lands countywide. Parks director Max Korten said extending the tax past its 2021 expiration date is critical for his department to continue the bulk of its work; the tax has generated over $82 million since two-thirds of voters approved it in 2012. “If we didn’t have Measure A, we would have to make a lot of really tough choices,” he told the Light. “It’s been a really valuable revenue source for supporting a lot of projects and programs.” The Marin Agricultural Land Trust, which gets 30 percent of its budget from Measure A funds, is readying for a campaign to renew the measure. At a Marin Conservation League subcommittee meeting last week, Executive Director Jamison Watts said a campaign would cost about $225,000, and the land trust is prepared to pay half of that. “It is not cheap, but we feel very strongly about it. We’re all in on this,” he said. Already, the trust has conducted surveys for a potential measure, which found the strongest support for an 18-year extension. Measure A’s farmland preservation program has awarded MALT over $14 million in grants. Coupling those funds with private donations, the trust has purchased conservation easements for 12 farms and ranches since 2012. Although the county is still months away from drafting ballot language, Mr. Korten said extended funding would allow for better stewardship and maintenance across the county, especially in the face of climate change. “If there is a willingness on the part of the community to support a longer funding measure, I think that could potentially enable us to plan for the future and have a system of parks and preserves that’s more resilient as we experience change,” he said. The bulk of the Measure A funds—just over half—are spent on improving 43 county parks and 34 open space preserves. Currently, parks staff is installing nearly 700 wayfinding signs with maps, notices and information about resource protection. Since the tax was approved in 2012, the department hired a 17-person vegetation management crew and deployed goats and sheep to create fire fuel breaks. It also created a road and trail management plan meant to reduce environmental impacts while enhancing visitor experience. That plan, which has met some opposition over its decommissioning of trails beloved by some walkers and bikers, continues to guide restoration projects, such as that at Roy’s Redwoods. Beyond improvements to county-owned property, Measure A also allows the county to acquire land, with about $1 million set aside for that purpose each year. The county has purchased four properties in East Marin so far; its purchase of the former San Geronimo Golf Course was halted by a lawsuit. About $4 million is set aside for future land acquisitions, Mr. Korten said. The remaining portion of the funds goes toward local jurisdictions, which supports the skate park in Bolinas and playgrounds in Tomales and Muir Beach.