By Matt Larson
Big changes don’t come easily, but time is of the essence. At this writing, El Sobrante has a chance to acquire the San Pablo Creekside Property, aka the Mowery Property, a 1.5-acre parcel of land which could be transformed into an urban park. This could potentially lead to a multitude of benefits for the local community, and economy. They’re ready to do it! All they need … is funding.
Citizens for a Greener El Sobrante (C4AGES), founded in 2011 by Executive Director Sharon Korotkin, has been advocating in favor of this project. They’ve stirred plenty of community interest, and even got the attention and support of Supervisor Gioia, but the funds to purchase the parcel are still desperately needed. The property is currently on the market, so before someone else steps in, C4AGES is searching for a likeminded investor who wants to help make this park a reality.
“We see it as a catalyst, a gateway to the revitalization of the downtown to make it a useable place,” Korotkin explained. “It will create an attraction for activity—a Farmer’s Market, dog run, respite by the creek, for example—if we can get the park, and get access to the creek, one of the main components is connecting to an existing trail system, and eventually the Bay Trail system.” The possibilities are truly endless.
“The biggest challenge is that the county doesn’t have the funds for the acquisition,” she lamented. “That’s going to be exclusively up to the community to pull together. I don’t think it’s impossible with willpower, and if we can reach enough people, but we’re hoping for a large benefactor.”
Thus far they’ve raised maybe $15,000, but a few hundred thousand is needed. They’ve pulled together lots of support from residents, county officials and local organizations alike, but they’re at a bit of a catch 22 for bringing in some of the bigger corporations. “We don’t have a complete business/development plan,” Korotkin explained. “That’s a huge undertaking, and it’s not for one person or small group of people to decide; there has to be a forum. In my view, this comes after the acquisition as it’s too much energy and time to figure out how to do all that unless we have the property.”
So the question now is, what can we all do to help? Spread the word, really. Talk to your neighbors, any community contacts you have, and see if you can help stir some interest throughout El Sobrante and West County. C4AGES can’t do this on it’s own, and it will indeed take the whole village to make this park a reality.
“If we don’t get enough interested individuals to play various parts and come together, and literally work on it, it’s not going to happen,” she said. “I’m hoping this article can compel the community to take action, because it can’t happen without that.”
This park acquisition is the most pressing issue, but C4AGES is working on other things as well. Established to promote sustainable practices that beautify El Sobrante and strengthen its economic corridors, environmental health, and community spirit, C4AGES has made an impact since their 2011 inception.
One of their first big undertakings was influencing the county to plant more than 50 elm trees as part of the San Pablo Dam Road Walkability and Community Enhancement Project circa 2014. They also generated interest to install El Sobrante’s first parklet which is currently in active discussion, and they helped create the “Live Litter Free” poster to raise awareness about the perils of littering that then evolved into the annual spring/summer kayak cleanup of the San Pablo Reservoir, in partnership with EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utility District). The 4th annual event is approaching so make sure to follow up with C4AGES with their email address below.
Korotkin is a professional landscape contractor who has created a number of parks in San Francisco and beyond with her company, Korotkin Associates. What keeps her passionate about this park project? “Knowing how marvelous it would be,” she said. If you agree, and want to offer some help or advice, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.