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County supervisors back efforts to build park where Andy Lopez died

Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday directed staff to proceed with efforts to build a park in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood where 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy.

Calls for a park in the Santa Rosa neighborhood, especially at the site where Lopez died, continue to gain momentum since the Oct. 22. shooting.

The supervisors, who expressed their desire to move quickly on the park project, instructed county staff to continue efforts to purchase the property and to devise ways to fund the park’s development and upkeep.

“This area is deficient when it comes to park assets and facilities,” said Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose district includes the Moorland Avenue neighborhood and the rest of southwest Santa Rosa.

Carrillo said the two vacant lots being considered for acquisition were slated to have a park as far back as 20 years ago. Back then, the nearby Parkview subdivision was originally designed as a 10-acre development with a 2-acre park.

But county supervisors cut the scope of the development in half and eliminated the immediate requirement for the park, leaving the construction of a park for future development of the two lots, which total 4.22 acres.

Carrillo called it a “shame” that it took two decades and the death of a child for the county to finally get serious about building a park in the Moorland neighborhood.

At the supervisors meeting, Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart said the park project would cost $2 to $3 million. The cost would cover purchasing the property, mitigating possible tiger salamander habitat and community outreach for input on park design, as well eventual design and development of the park.

Annual operation and maintenance of the park would cost an estimated $25,000 to $100,000, Hart said.

Carrillo, reiterating a point he’s made often since the shooting, said involving local residents in the design and development of the park is a critical step in healing the community wounds and rifts caused by the Lopez shooting.

Hart said possible design features could include a plaza, athletic fields and a playground. She also identified possible funding, including a $450,000 state Housing Related Parks grant, matching funds from the Agriculture Preservation and Open Space District and the creation of a nonprofit account to receive private donations.

Hart identified the county’s next steps as further evaluating acquisition and funding options; community engagement and outreach; identifying site constraints and refining the timeline for the project.

Construction of the park could start in the summer of 2015 and conclude at the end of 2016 under a preliminary timeline released Tuesday.

The next status report is expected in March or April.

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