Elk Grove’s Jones Family Park

Elk Grove’s Jones Family Park at Shasta Lily Drive shows visible signs of cuts to park maintenance.

Neighborhood activists successfully worked to restore maintenance at Edie Macdonald and Joseph Perry parks this summer. They encouraged enough property owners near those parks to vote in favor of paying higher park maintenance fees.

Resident Chris Gammon and other residents are now running a similar campaign to restore Jones Family and Tom Karamanos parks in north Elk Grove.  Local parks provider, the Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD), plans to release a survey on Nov. 1 for neighbors of those parks. They want to see if property owners are willing to vote in a local ballot to increase their park maintenance fees.

Gammon said that he and his fellow activists released their own survey to learn of their neighbors’ views.

“We have already gone door-to-door and delivered 1,368 flyers with our own survey,” he said.

Under California’s Proposition 218, the CSD board can only increase a park’s annual maintenance fees if the majority of neighboring property owners approves an increase in a ballot vote.

The CSD earlier cut back on maintenance at several Elk Grove parks during the summer of 2018. District officials said that funds from the neighbors’ previous maintenance fees were too low to keep up with rising landscaping costs. Dead grass, tall weeds, and broken playground equipment soon followed.

Neighbors of Macdonald and Perry parks then spent a year building enough support in their neighborhoods to vote in a local ballot to boost their park maintenance fees.

During their campaign to restore Jones and Karamanos parks, Gammon and his group shared flyers that featured photographs of the recently restored lawn at Perry Park.

“Perry was in the same shape as Jones and Karamanos parks before they passed their new assessment,” the flyer stated. “Look at the results!”

Gammon told the Citizen that he encountered several challenges in his campaign. He said that only 3% of property owners near Jones and Karamanos parks responded to his group’s survey. Of those responses, the majority were positive, he said.

Gammon also noted that the survey faced a language barrier from many residents.  

“We found while walking door-to-door that many people didn’t speak English and our materials are only in English,” he said.

Gammon noted that the toughest challenge is to persuade skeptical neighbors to approve higher maintenance fees.

“(It’s) a suspicion that the current (maintenance) funds are not being used wisely, and skepticism that the assessment needs to be roughly doubled in order to support the parks,” he said.

Ten years ago, the majority of residents near Jones and Karamanos parks voted in a local ballot and rejected higher maintenance fees. Gammon mentioned that he was one of the property owners who voted no in 2009.

“However, I’m convinced that the need for a higher assessment is legitimate,” he said. “Despite my own skepticism and misgivings about how spending is done, I’m now a YES vote.”

For more information on the Save Jones & Karamanos Parks campaign, visit their Facebook page under “Save Jones/Karamanos Parks.”