Gibson Ranch Regional Park will not close for a single day, Sacramento County supervisors said Tuesday, but future management of the park remains unresolved.
Developer and former Rep. Doug Ose took over ranch operations in 2011 under a 10-year lease, but advised the county last fall he would quit running the park April 30, citing revenue issues.
Supervisors on Tuesday told county staff to come up with an interim agreement with Ose to continue running the park past that date while they come up with a permanent solution. Supervisor Phil Serna, who represented Gibson Ranch and its surrounding communities before political districts were redrawn in 2011, said he remembers how important the park is to the community.
“I don’t want any interruption of access for constituents,” he said.
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There are several options available to the county – a modified agreement with Ose, seeking a different private operator through a competitive bidding process or putting the Regional Parks department back in charge.
The last option would require contracts for services like the horse boarding center and cutting the grass, said Regional Parks Director Jeff Leatherman. He said he believes his department has the capacity to take on park management with an additional three staff members and some seasonal help.
“I think I’ve learned over the years that Gibson Ranch is a unique beast in our park system,” said Supervisor Susan Peters.
She said she wants county staff to nail down more financial details with Ose before she makes a decision, including liability insurance, maintenance and fees.
County staff should “work towards a scenario where he could stay running the park in some way … and then if that doesn’t work out that he wants it, then we go to (a bidding process),” she said. “I just don’t think there’s been enough homework done here that’s understandable to us.”
Ose told the board his primary objective is to stop losing money and if that means he has to stop running the park, so be it. Since he took over the park, he said he’s lost $230,000.
He had proposed two scenarios in which he would control operations but the county would bear the risk of losses and benefit if higher revenues come in. Both involved lowering his insurance requirements and not allowing Regional Parks annual passes at Gibson Ranch. One proposal would raise vehicle fees from $5 to $8.
Ose’s 2011 lease with the county called for $500,000 in deferred maintenance over the first five years of operation, but Ose told the board he used only about $200,000 for necessary repairs. He said he completed the work he could do without a third party contractor and didn’t replace infrastructure he deemed unnecessary, such as a shade structure that collapsed.
Supervisors seemed surprised, with Supervisor Don Nottoli saying it’s very unusual for maintenance money to go unspent. Leatherman said the remainder of the money was folded into the general fund.
Two people spoke during public comment, emphasizing the importance of the park to the surrounding community. Shannon Brown, an Antelope resident, told the board she would like to see the space preserved for future generations and called the park a “jewel.”