Valley Forum: Supervisor Gorin on pools, housing and Paul’s Field

Recently, the Index Tribune printed an article highlighting the possibility that Paul’s Field will be replaced by a housing development as part of the financing plan for the community pool (“Paul’s Field to Be Sacrificed for Sonoma Splash,” Dec. 18). Sonoma Splash purchased the property in 2013 from Yvonne Marcucci-Thibault and her husband, Roland. Yvonne’s family, the Marcuccis, has a tremendous history of altruism in this Valley and part of this paradigm was establishing Paul’s Little League Field in 1958, leasing it to Sonoma Little League for $1 per year. They agreed to the sale because they saw the need for a community pool.

Until recently, it was my understanding Paul’s Field would remain and I was disheartened to learn otherwise. I completely understand the attachment to the field, the place and the tradition. The field has long provided a place for our youth to learn the fine art of baseball, the importance of teamwork and, most importantly, a venue for generations of families to come together to cheer and remember. 

It came as no surprise that the response from the public was swift and because a quote made by me in the I-T story was placed out of the context I intended, I received several emails concerning my “position.” My office placed a call to the Sonoma Little League President the day the article appeared – clarifying what I’d said, as well as pledging support to ensure the youth have a place to play ball.

Let me be clear, I never said I was “all for” the razing of Paul’s Field. I am “all for” improving our athletic fields, increasing affordable housing and access for a true community pool for our residents.

The main issue is that Paul’s is the only field on private land in the Valley; therefore, the future of the field could never be guaranteed, as it could be on public land. We have choices in our current inventory – some, like Larson Park, are the same fields many residents played on as children as often as they played at Paul’s Field. As supervisor, my goal is to find a place in the Valley where the kids can play baseball forever.

Even if Sonoma Splash fails to make a community pool a reality, the future of Paul’s Field is tenuous because of private land ownership. Some people have requested that I use the power of this office to stop the pool group from moving forward, and are confused as to why this is not possible. While it is a community pool, it is not a county project. It is on private property and the desire for a community pool has long occupied the Valley, especially since the end of the high school pool.

Decades ago, there were many choices for the public to learn to swim or cool off in the hot summers. For over 70 years, the Springs area had an entire economy based upon access to pools and water. Today, those choices are private or filled over. It seemed natural that the Paul’s Resort site, long a hub for Valley families to recreate, should be the site of a community pool. 

Sonoma Splash came together to develop a business plan, select an appropriately sited location and raise funds for the project. They have kept me informed about their progress for the last three years. Nearly one month ago, they came to me to explain the fundraising roadblock and asked my thoughts about developing housing on the site of the field to raise needed funds for the pool.

My first thought was sadness about the potential loss of Paul’s Field, or a missed opportunity for a community pool; but still I hoped something positive for the community could arise from this news. We know we need affordable housing; the vacancy rate in the Valley is extremely low and I often hear from families who are struggling to remain here. This location adjacent to Maxwell Park and a potential pool may be positive, but at this time it is conceptual.

The master plan updates for Maxwell Farms Regional Park and Larsen Park are about to be released, and the community has spoken strongly in support of upgraded ball and soccer fields, tennis courts, a pump track and other active recreational uses.  The Boys and Girls Clubs has been exploring a partnership with the Cal Ripken Association to raise funds for a baseball field for Maxwell Park, and there is a baseball field in Larsen Park in need of upgrading and another one at Ernie Smith Park. All three sites are on public land and can be a part of current and future generations of baseball fans and family into perpetuity.

I would like to see a permanent home for the Sonoma Little League come out of this conversation. Now is an opportunity to talk about the how our athletic fields are used, managed and maintained as well as assess the number of fields in concert with needs. Could we pool our resources to upgrade the fields to meet the needs of the community?

There are opportunities for baseball fields, a swimming pool and more affordable housing for Sonoma Valley. We have to work together. I am fully committed to working with Sonoma Little League, Sonoma Splash, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, and Regional Parks to find resolution.

Susan Gorin is the Sonoma County 1st District Supervisor representing the Sono ma Valley.

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