Sacramento County would take back responsibility for Gibson Ranch Regional Park under a staff recommendation the Board of Supervisors will consider Tuesday for the troubled but beloved property.
Developer and former Rep. Doug Ose has run Gibson Ranch since 2011 after the county shuttered the roughly 325-acre Elverta park for budget reasons. Six years ago, Ose believed he could operate the park on a profitable basis.
But in October 2016, Ose filed notice that he would end his Gibson Ranch lease agreement April 30; a few weeks ago he said he had suffered heavy revenue losses.
County parks staff have recommended that the county take over operations beginning May 1. Regional Parks estimates it would need $315,000 to hire staff and contract services to run parts of the park like the horse boarding facility.
Besides that path, county supervisors will consider two alternatives proposed by county staff, as well as two options proposed by Ose, who still wants to operate the facility but hopes for better terms.
Ose’s proposals would leave him in charge of the park and shift operating costs to the county. In the first scenario, the county would cap the amount spent on operating costs and receive a guaranteed revenue payment Ose would negotiate with the county. The second scenario has no cap on operating costs, but all revenue would go to the county.
In the first proposal, the daily entry fee would rise from $5 to $8. In both cases, Sacramento County Regional Parks annual passes would no longer be valid for entry.
Ose said earlier this month that he lost roughly $60,000 running the park in 2016, sometimes losing as much as $20,000 in one month.
The county attorney determined that either scenario would be enough of a contract change to prompt a new bidding process for running the park, according to a county report.
If supervisors do not want the county to run Gibson Ranch again, parks staff say two alternatives exist: Open a new bidding process or close the park completely, which would still cost $230,000 a year for security and maintenance.
Supervisor Sue Frost, whose district includes the park, said her top priority is to keep the park open.
“A lot of people rely on the recreational facilities there … and people have planned their weddings,” she said. She said she’s received 200 emails from constituents who don’t want the park closed.
“I think there’s something that we can work out,” she said. “That remains open to discussion with the board.”
Currently, the county doesn’t pay Ose anything to run the park, though he received $100,000 a year for deferred maintenance for the first five years. He pays the county $1 a year to lease the property and charges a $5 vehicle fee. He said earlier this month that higher labor costs were the primary reason the park fell into the red.
“I think it’s going to work out,” he said. “It all comes down to: What does the Board of Supervisors want to do?”
Deep budget cuts during the recession forced the county to close the park, which has many hiking, biking and horse riding trails and a fishing pond. It’s home to geese, pigs, cows, chickens, llamas and a thriving duck population.
In 2010, the county put park operations out for bid, saying it would cost too much to reopen the park under county management. Ose was the sole bidder and proposed running the park as a for-profit venture. His original proposal had supporters and detractors, some of whom protested putting public land in private hands.
Ose said he’s not planning to rally supporters this time.