The integrity of Skyline Wilderness Park is at risk. The county and the state need to know that taking this parkland for housing development of any kind is unthinkable, and it is not available to even be considered for development. It is an extremely valuable community shared resource and is in no way “surplus” undeveloped land to be considered any time there is a need for a for a list of available sites.
The state has mandated development of low income (affordable) housing in Napa County and provided rules as to where such development might happen. There is a set of locations where this development may happen, and it becomes the responsibility of the Board of Supervisors to select the site or sites. The Housing Element Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission review the sites and makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.
One of those sites is Skyline Wilderness Park. Each of our supervisors should know better than to put development in this (or any) park, but given that there has been no statement to that effect, we need to let them know individually and as a group, that this park should never appear on a list of potential development sites. Never.
Skyline park is owned by the state and leased to the county for use as a public park. The county delegates the operation of the park to the Skyline Park Citizens Association. Since its opening in 1983, the number of visitors and communities has increased dramatically. Currently, there are hiking, biking, equestrian, native plant, disc golf, and archery clubs that call Skyline Park home, and the park is used for activities ranging from RV camping, tent camping, 4H activities, scouting, fishing, and large group events, not to mention picnicking and wildlife. Maintenance and enhancement of the park is funded by user fees, supplemented by volunteer groups; no public monies go to the support of the operation of the park.
Skyline is one of those rare places where people of different interests and backgrounds come together and share the resource with everyone else. You will encounter every demographic in the valley, and everyone is sharing smiles and respecting each other’s use and activities. “Skyline Park is unique in the region both in the breadth of its activities and facilities offered, the beauty of its vistas, and the friendliness and warmth of its regular users and visitors. People here are having a good time and getting along with one another in a way that we just don’t see elsewhere” says Andrew Brooks, the park’s president.
During the pandemic lockdown, the number of visitors skyrocketed, increasing almost three times; the park was one of the very few places where people could unwind, exercise, destress, and take in the beauty of nature that the park preserves.
There is no comparable park in Napa County. There are parks with great hiking and camping opportunities, but nothing that comes close to the every-citizen park. In New York City, there is Central Park. In Los Angeles, there is Griffith Park, in Napa Valley, there is Skyline Park.
There is motion to transfer ownership of the park from the state to Napa County, which involves a series of bureaucratic steps and a purchase. That would preserve the park in perpetuity and protect it from development or subdivision. In the steps, the state needs to declare the property as “surplus”, which was done in 2019. As “surplus”, however, it becomes eligible for designation as a low-income housing site. In the process of conserving the park, it goes through a designation that makes it vulnerable to development. We, as citizens of Napa County, need to let the county and state know that they should not even think about chopping parts of the park off for development.
While it will be difficult for our elected officials to select the eventual site, with various advantages and problems associated with each option, we need to be very clear. Under no circumstance should Skyline Park be considered as a site for development. Not a large piece. Not a small sliver. Never should that be considered. It is irreplaceable. It is already being used at its highest potential as a community and open space asset. Encroachment into Skyline Wilderness Park sets a very bad precedent that shared parklands are open to development, and additional slices of Skyline Park would become more likely. If Skyline stays on the list of potential development sites, it will become easier and easier to destroy the park, bit by bit.
Skyline Park has two topographical segments. There are the hiking, biking, and equestrian trails in the hilly area and there is a relatively flat section along Imola. The County is eyeing a slice of the flat section for development. The flat areas are the greater source of revenue that funds park maintenance. More importantly, they are the spaces that accommodate large group and community activities. They are important to the integrity of the park.
We might also note that the particular area under consideration is in the path of silica dust that plumes from Syar quarry operations when they do blasting. Creating permanent residences in that plume constitutes a health hazard which could be protested in the name of environmental equity and justice. We don’t think we need to invoke that consideration because the overarching principle should prevail: do not put housing development in a park.
We encourage all citizens of Napa County to write to members of the Housing Element Advisory Committee, members of the Planning Commission, and their Board of Supervisors representative and to our State Senator, Bill Dodd and to our representative to the State Assembly, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry. They should know that the citizens of Napa support keeping Skyline Park as a park in perpetuity, and not be subject to consideration for development for any purposes.
We are not against affordable housing. We need that. We also need to protect open spaces, parks, and wilderness areas. Development should be placed in underutilized locations that are not being fully enjoyed as community and environmental resources.
Please write or call to tell our representatives, “Do not even think about it.”:
District 1: Brand Wagenknecht: email@example.com 707-253-4828
District 2: Ryan Gregory: firstname.lastname@example.org 707-259-8276
District 3: Diane Dillon: Diane.Dillon@countyofnapa.org 707-253-4827
District 4: Alfredo Pedroza: email@example.com 707-259-8278
District 5: Belia Ramos: firstname.lastname@example.org 707-259-8277
State Senator Bill Dodd: https://sd03.senate.ca.gov/contact
State Assembly Representative Cecilia Aguiar-Curry: https://a04.asmdc.org/contact
The Conservation Committee of the Sierra Club Napa Group.
Frequently Asked Questions
The park is 850 acres. Losing a 5 acre slice won’t harm it much, will it?
The largest section of the park is the hilly trail area. The flat area along Imola is much smaller. Taking a 5 acre slice of the flat area will impair the ability of the park to host large group activities. It also impairs the revenue that supports the park. It is significant.
Most importantly, the state has designated 20 acres as “surplus” and eligible for housing. This is just the first slice. If the county uses it, the next slices are inevitable. When the full 20 acres has been subtracted from the park, the park’s viability is at risk. It will not be able to host large group activities. No BottleRock camping, scout camps, horse camping and events, Suscol Intertribal events. The list of events that will go away is long.
What activities happen on the area designated as “surplus”?
Just as is the case with the county fairgrounds, on any day, you might drive by and see nothing going on. Then, the site might be full of tents, cars, horses and horse trailers, or large groups of people in training activities or celebrations.
I’m a hiker, this won’t affect me, will it?
The park has a lot of synergy. There are areas designated for archery, disc golf, RV camping, native plant gardens, etc. There are many hikers and bikers who move through the flat area right to the trails. They may not realize that the excellent trail maintenance is supported by revenue from activities on the flat areas. It affects you.
How soon will decisions be made?
The County Planning Commission will discuss this on July 6 at 9AM
The Housing Element Advisory Committee will meet on July 14. Written public comments must be received by 4PM July 11.
What are the alternative locations for affordable housing?
There are many suitable locations. Skyline is being considered as one of the sites not in the city, though it is just across the street from Napa City.
The other sites being considered are:
- Spanish Flat
- Bishop, NE of Napa
- Altamura, NE of Napa
- Big Ranch Rd
- Foster Rd
We think there are sites in addition to these. Right next to the park is the large state hospital grounds, most of which is unused. A 5 acre parcel can easily be carved out of that without disrupting any activities and beneficial services. Our job is not to scout locations, though. That is the job of the state and county specialists.
Didn’t the state and county know that this is a park? Why would they designate a park for housing?
In the various documents, Skyline is referred to as “state owned land on Imola.” The actual name and importance of the location is not mentioned. In the selection criteria, the study is supposed to describe the current use of the properties. There is no evidence that anyone looked at the park or talked to the Skyline Citizens Council to find out how important this property is. It is discussed just as a piece of land and not its value to the community as is.