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LEOPOLD

SOQUEL -- The two steel disc-golf nets are stuck into a vacant lot along Soquel Drive, pristine and pretty much unplayed, sticking out like sore thumb.

The nets have been there more a year, a spontaneous addition to plans for an undeveloped five-acre Farm Park and community center in Soquel. In truth, they were a maneuver against the legislature's 2011 decision to fold redevelopment agencies statewide, a sign of progress meant to keep the land from being liquidated and the proceeds divided among local governments.

But the Farm Park's future -- along with that of several other local planned parks -- now seems more assured. A new state law has cleared the way for the county to rescue the land from the rubble of redevelopment to be used as neighbors originally intended.

"I think the community has invested a lot of time money and energy around these park properties," said Supervisor John Leopold, who represents Soquel and Live Oak, noting the county had moved to protect them by going so far as to issue development permits. "People have been waiting for these parks for a long time."

This week, a board overlooking over the dissolution of the county's redevelopment agency released its ownership of the Farm Park, Live Oak's proposed Chanticleer Park, a riverside property in downtown Soquel also slated for park use and a strip of land near Moran Lake designated for butterfly habitat.

The state must approve all deals. Even if that happens, however, the parks could be slow to develop.


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When it became clear last year that redevelopment would be ended, the county rapidly moved to lock up several planned projects by inking development deals on them. A few have since been completed, but some -- such as a $44 million public safety center in Live Oak -- are still pending.

However, the county didn't have money for everything. While the planned linear park along Soquel Creek was funded, the Farm Park was not, and Chanticleer received maintenance funds only.

A group of neighbors has been pushing for Chanticleer Park, and that is likely to see the first, modest developments, including a parking area, track, community garden and bicycle pump course.

The Farm Park has a pending $960,000 state habitat restoration grant. That should jump-start efforts there, but there is no money for a 3,500-square-foot community center or other amenities.

"We're really looking to work with the community on some of the Chanticleer Park and, certainly, ultimately at the Farm Park," said Betsey Lynberg, assistant director for public works, who oversees county parks.

Two significant parcels formerly held by the redevelopment agency are still headed for a sale. They are a series of parcels along Capitola Road near 17th Avenue, and a large, open plot at Seventh Avenue and Brommer Street, near the back entrance to the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor.

Both are zoned for commercial use, and Leopold said he would like to hold community meetings to create a plan for the properties before they hit the market.

"We believe that's a win-win situation," Leopold said, saying a sale is not likely to be imminent. "We're not doing a fire sale or anything."

Follow Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppin on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsdude