Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian A park user exercises in Ramsay Park on Wednesday.

In a little more than a year, Ramsay Park in Watsonville will boast a new dog park, a new multi-use synthetic sports field, a new state-of-the-art nature center and new lights for its pathways, parking lots and athletic fields.

Plans also include an all-inclusive playground, picnic areas and the Watsonville Slough Connector Trail Project, a connector trail between Main St. and Harkins Slough Road.

The Ramsay Park Renaissance Project is slated to kick off in May, and is expected to take approximately 15 months. 

The Watsonville City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a $24.5 million contract to Santa Clara-based Robert A Bothman Construction to lead the project.

“We are just beyond thrilled that we’re able to move forward with the Ramsay Park Renaissance Project,” said Watsonville Parks and Community Services Director Nick Calubaquib. “It is by far the largest investment the city has made in its park system in many years, if not ever. It is going to completely transform Ramsay Park as we know it today.”

But the good news was tempered by a proposed law facing voters on the November ballot. 

The so-called Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act would retroactively impose a set of strict rules for any new taxes, and for those passed in the past two years.

The measure comes from a cadre of the state’s biggest corporations calling themselves the California Business Roundtable.

If it passes, Watsonville’s Measure R—a half-cent sales tax passed by a majority of Watsonville voters in 2022 to fund community services such as parks—could be nullified.

This would take away a large funding source for the project upon which the city was counting.

According to the League of California Cities, approximately $2 billion in voter-approved measures will be at risk if this measure passes.

Part of Tuesday’s vote, then, included a just-in-case plan to self-fund a portion of the $15 million still needed for the project through November when the fate of the law becomes clear. 

That will include a $5 million internal loan that will cost the city $625,000 annually.

“We’re just trying to put in safeguards to make sure that we do our diligence to make sure that we’re making the best financial decisions as we move forward with this project, and do it in a way that wont put the city’s financial future at risk,” Calubaquib said. “It gives the city the leeway to wait until November to make a more informed decision.”

Councilwoman Kristal Salcido urged the community to work to defeat the measure, and asked city staff to identify the businesses behind it.

“I would not shop there if they were actual corporations,” she said. “I would want to know who is actually sponsoring this bill. I think there are ways our community can respond other than just strong opposition. It’s also with our wallets.”

Despite the pall cast by the proposed law, the air in the council chambers was largely one of celebration.

“This is really a monumental moment for us here in the city of Watsonville,” Councilman Jimmy Dutra said. “It’s one of the best votes I’m going to be taking in my decade.”

Councilman Eduardo Montesino agreed.

“We’ve been taking a lot of steps to get this jewel, because it’s a jewel in the community,” he said. “When this opens up, it’s going to uplift us.”

Councilwoman Ari Parker said the park played a significant role in her childhood, and said that it is important to promote efforts to boost open space in the ever-expanding city.

“No matter what we do, we have to keep our eyes on that prize,” she said.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/


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