Friends of Lafferty Park letter to the Petaluma City Council on October 22, 2001, following the Council's certification of the Lafferty Park Environmental Impact Report (EIR)


October 22, 2001

Petaluma City Council
11 English Street
Petaluma, CA 94952

Dear Mayor Thompson and Councilmembers:

On behalf of Friends of Lafferty Park, allow me to thank and congratulate you all for Tuesday's unanimous vote to certify the Lafferty Park EIR as complete and accurate.  We are thrilled to have a definitive end to that long and costly process which park opponents forced upon our city.

We now look forward to working closely with you in moving ahead without delay to remove the remaining obstacles to opening the park.

Chief among those obstacles is the need for funds to implement the park and, if need be, to defend the project in court.  We pledge to redouble our efforts to help you secure significant funding for the project by strongly supporting your application to the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, by helping research and write other grant proposals, and through direct fundraising.

We ask the Council to begin allowing public visits to Lafferty consistent with historical use (e.g school class field trips, a weekend or two of general public tours, and small groups of individuals led by City employees, and by elected and appointed City officials.) Public visits will be critical to the fundraising effort. FLP stands ready to help the City organize and conduct such visits.

On Tuesday, several councilmembers mentioned their desire to hold talks between City and County representatives, and possibly including park opponents such as the Sonoma Mountain Conservancy (SMC), to try to resolve the outstanding issues holding up park implementation. 

Friends of Lafferty Park's view of this suggestion is as follows:

  1. FLP is, of course, in favor of any equitable solution that gets the park open without further unnecessary delays and expenditures, provided the solution is fair to park users, landowners (that is, the people of Petaluma), and the park's natural environment.
  2. Any discussions should be held in full view of the public and press, so far as is possible.  Engaging the services of a professional mediator should be given careful consideration, and participants should be actual stakeholders, not their representatives. If representatives must be involved, the names of those being represented should be divulged.
  3. FLP should be given at least as much standing in any discussions as SMC. SMC is a special-interest citizens group opposed to the park.  As their counterpart in favor of the park, FLP deserves, to say the least, an equal voice.  (Some have suggested SMC needs more standing because they are threatening to sue Petaluma.  But we all heard SMC attorney Les Perry say, in response to a question, that SMC has never even discussed the possibility of suing the City! We'll let that pass without comment.)
  4. In Tuesday's meeting, Councilmember Moynihan suggested he would like to be part of a council subcommittee involved in such discussions.  We feel Councilmember Moynihan has disqualified himself for such a role by publicly promoting a so-called "compromise" plan in the local newspaper which coincides precisely with the SMC's non-negotiable demands since 1993, and which the people of Petaluma have repeatedly and resoundingly rejected.  For this reason, FLP will not find acceptable any subcommittee makeup which includes Councilmember Moynihan.
  5. We must reiterate that the current Lafferty Park management plan is itself a significant compromise, reflecting major concessions to the concerns of park neighbors not typical of comparable parks in the region (no night use, long fire season closure, huge water tank for fire fighting, extensive mowing, exclusion of horses, bikes, and dogs to protect the wildlife and creek, etc.)  This compromise management plan was arrived at with the active participation of park neighbors John Saemann and Pat Cheda, and with extensive input from SMC lawyers and consultants.
  6. Finally, while we are open to discussion about any concerns brought about by park implementation, one issue we will not compromise on is the central fact that Lafferty will, in fact, become a park.  A park at Lafferty has been the City's goal since 1962, and the County's goal since 1964.  FLP's resolve for that outcome, and that of the people of Petaluma, we believe, is stronger than ever.  Any notion that discussions with park opponents might lead to a result where Lafferty becomes something other than a park should be utterly dispelled.

Thank you for your consideration of these views.  We look forward to continuing together on this challenging, but ultimately very rewarding, climb to our mountaintop.


Larry Modell

Larry Modell
for Friends of Lafferty Park

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