Opinion: Vote yes on Measure FF for visitor services in popular regional parks

Measure FF will continue existing, voter-approved funding for regional parks like Tilden Park, McLaughlin Eastshore Park, and Redwood Regional Park without increasing taxes.

On any given Saturday, you can find parents of young children at grocery stores throughout Berkeley buying celery to bring to the animals at the Little Farm in Tilden Regional Park. You can find people of all ages enjoying a bike ride along the Bay Trail, and birders with binoculars in hand looking for the burrowing owls, at the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. And head a little south of the Berkeley city limits and you will find Berkeley residents running the trails at Redwood Regional Park where second and third growth redwoods inspire a feeling of awe.

Berkeley residents love, enjoy, and benefit from the East Bay Regional Park District’s parks that we live near. I am one of those residents. I can’t count the number of times I took my kids to feed the goats at the Little Farm, or how many times I’ve ridden my bike on the Bay Trail or walked through the redwoods at Redwood Regional. And I’m not alone. The regional parks are enormously popular and very important to life here in the East Bay.

The regional parks give so much to us. On Nov. 6, we can do something to take care of them. I encourage you to vote yes on Measure FF on November 6 or your mail-in ballot.

Measure FF will continue existing, voter-approved funding for Regional Parks in western Alameda and Contra Costa counties – without increasing taxes. Measure FF extends an existing $1 monthly ($12/year) per single-family parcel and 69¢ monthly ($8.28/year) for multi-family units. That’s a small price for the enormous benefits these places provide.

The 73 parks within the East Bay Regional Park District host more than 25 million visits every year. That’s more than the annual attendance at all Giants, A’s, 49ers, Raiders, Warriors, Sharks, and Earthquakes games combined. And a lot of those visits are to the parks that are in or close to Berkeley like Tilden, McLaughlin, and Redwood. As you can imagine, the parks closest to the urban centers host the most visits and therefore need to provide more services.

Measure FF will provide more financial support for the parks that need it the most. The commitment list for Measure FF includes:

  • In Tilden Regional Park, Measure FF will enable improvements to visitor use facilities such as the Environmental Education Center, Little Farm and Botanical Garden Visitor Center. Measure FF will improve access and pedestrian safety at the Brazilian Room and Botanical Garden Visitor Center.
  • In McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, which East Bay Regional Park District manages on behalf of the State, Measure FF will provide for shoreline and natural habitat protection, improve visitor use facilities, and expand park personnel. In addition, Measure FF will help protect, enhance, and monitor wildlife habitat like the burrowing owls.
  • In Redwood Regional Park, Measure FF will enhance interpretation of East Bay redwood tree history and provide for creek restoration and erosion control for watershed health and visitor safety.

The full commitment list can be found here.

These are our parks and our dollars. Fortunately, East Bay Regional Park District has a proven track record for managing its financial resources. The Park District has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 16 consecutive years and has an AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s (S&P) – the highest possible rating. The committee I voluntarily sit on – the Parks Advisory Committee – reviews budgets and plans on a monthly basis, providing important community perspectives and an additional set of eyes on the District’s finances and programs.

If the goats at Tilden’s Little Farm could vote, I am confident that they would vote yes on Measure FF. Since they can’t vote, I hope that you will. They’re counting on us for more than celery on Saturdays.

Annie Burke is a Berkeley resident, mother of two boys, and a volunteer member of the East Bay Regional Park District’s Park Advisory Committee.