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Editor:

Annadel State Park has been a staple and beautiful asset to the Santa Rosa community for 41 years and now has a very uncertain future. As widely reported, the State of California can no longer maintain the park – the largest in Sonoma County – due to budget cuts. On July 1, the State will “close” Annadel State Park. Sonoma County Regional Parks is pursuing the possibility of managing Annadel on an interim basis, and working closely with the Parks Alliance for Sonoma County and other local nonprofit partners to raise the money to cover operating costs. The problem is that it costs more than $300,000 annually to manage and maintain Annadel and currently there is not a reliable funding source. Until steady income generators (i.e. parking fees, membership) are implemented, it will be up to the community to dig deep to supply the funds necessary to keep the park open. 

Local businesses would be impacted by the shuttering of this important amenity, both directly and indirectly. Business owners, employees and customers alike can be found hiking, running, biking and horseback riding on its 35 miles of trails or enjoying the tranquility of Lake Ilsanjo. Employee recruitment and retention (not to mention health and well-being) are enhanced by the availability of the convenient outdoor recreation offered by the park; residents, and your employees, are drawn to Sonoma County for the quality of life. Finally, the park is an economic driver as studies have shown that every $1 invested in the state park system returns $2.35 to the state’s General Fund, largely in the form of economic activity in local economies. Local operation of the park would allow that money to remain in the Sonoma County economy.

Absent adequate funding and thoughtful management, Annadel’s nearly 5,100 rugged acres along the eastern side of Santa Rosa will quickly fall into disrepair, adversely impacting surrounding businesses and home owners. The conditions of the park will rapidly decline without the necessary maintenance and increased crime in the park and surrounding community could follow.

The Annadel Half Marathon is a 13.1-mile trail race within Annadel and Spring Lake Regional Park that was conceived to help fill the funding void. Started in 2010, the race has raised nearly $50,000 to date, with all proceeds going directly to Annadel. The 3rd Annual Annadel Half will take place on Saturday, April 14 and, with Kathy’s Race 5K, is expected to draw nearly 1,000 local athletes and their families. This year, due to the budget crisis, the Annadel Half Marathon planning team is doubling our monetary goal and encouraging the business community to join us.

Here are specific ways businesses can support Annadel State Park via the Annadel Half Marathon fundraiser:"Friend" us (Annadel Half Marathon) on Facebook to stay up-to-date on our fundraising activities and the upcoming race.Run the race individually or pull together a team of four to compete in the men’s, women’s and mixed team divisions. More details and a link to race registration can be found at www.annadelhalf.com.Donate a prize for the raffle to be held after the race.Volunteer to help the race run smoothly on April 14 - more information and sign up at www.annadelhalf.com.Make a tax deductible donation directly to the race's beneficiary, The Parks Alliance for Sonoma County http://parksalliance.com/. Annadel Half will match every dollar donated to Annadel State Park, up to $20,000, between February 1, 2012 and July 1, 2012.  Special recognition for large donors will be made on our website.

This race generates visibility for local businesses and non-profits that have become aligned with it. It is also the only opportunity to experience and fundraise for the park via a trail race event. For more information about the Annadel Half Marathon or Kathy’s Race 5K, please visit www.annadelhalf.com.

Annadel is a critical asset to the community for which we live AND work. Can you imagine Sonoma County without Annadel? It will happen without business support. Contact our sponsorship coordinator Halley Eppinger (Halley@annadelhalf.com) to discuss these participation opportunities. For more information about The Parks Alliance for Sonoma County and for the latest news on the status of Annadel and other Sonoma County parks, please visit http://parksalliance.com/.Matt SchifferAnnadel Half Planning Committee