Now that the Save the Petaluma Adobe Committee has managed to raise the $70,000 needed to keep the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park open for one more year, something unusual is taking place at the park: Lines are being rehearsed, actors recruited, costumes made and sets procured as the committee prepares to host a Shakespeare-inspired fundraising play in August.
"The Two Gentlemen of Sonoma," a riff on Shakespeare's original "Two Gentlemen of Verona," is one of many options the committee is developing to create a sustainable funding source that will keep the state park open permanently.
The Adobe Park was one of 16 North Coast parks on a statewide closure list, compiled last year by officials in Sacramento to lessen a multi-billion dollar state budget shortfall. Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen, also slated for closure, was saved when the nonprofit Valley of the Moon Natural History Association agreed to assume responsibility for its daily operations from the state.
Chairman Philip Sales says the committee is outlining a three-pronged approach to present to its governing board, the Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Parks Association, on August 14. The strategy includes reducing operating costs by having volunteers run the park instead of a park ranger, increasing revenue from visitation and special events and soliciting donations that would sustain the educational programs the park currently operates.
Sales said the committee is also considering running the park itself by taking over basic operations on a volunteer basis while the state retains ownership of the land.
"It could be less expensive for us to run it, but the board won't look at that option until we crunch all the numbers," he said. "We're looking at all the numbers to see if we could afford to take it over on July 1, 2013."
Sales says that the Jack London model is an option his committee will be examining over the next month before they present to the board. "We have to persuade our board that it would be a viable option for us to run the park, which will make the next few months pretty important," he said.
The committee is also considering reviving the park's exhibits, installing an "iron ranger" — an honor system donation box that Sales said has generated a lot of revenue at other parks — and finding donors to help support the costs of educational programs that are currently operating in the red, like the popular fourth grade overnight school camping trip called the Environmental Living Project which gives students a firsthand experience of historic life at Adobe Park.
Though the Adobe Park's future is still uncertain, it's clear that the locals who love it are prepared to come up with a gamut of solutions to keep it open.
City Councilmember Teresa Barrett, who attended the park's survival ribbon-cutting event on July 1, said the park is part of Petaluma's history.
"I worry about losing something this important to the community," she said. "I was thrilled when they raised enough money to keep it open and hope that it can stay open."
Meanwhile, Sales and the committee are ticking away at their first fundraiser, one that Sales himself suggested that stemmed from his acting days when he performed at the Boarding House comedy club in San Francisco.