MOUNTAIN SONGS Concert crowds at the Sugarloaf Ridge amphitheater have grown to 500.
Three years ago, Kenwood's Sugarloaf Ridge State Park nearly closed. But in the wake of massive budget cuts, California State Parks officials contracted with a group of local nonprofits, collectively called Team Sugarloaf, to operate and maintain the park.
Since then, Team Sugarloaf has taken steps to increase revenue through nontraditional methods, which include the popular Funky Fridays concert series run by volunteer organizers Bill Myers and Linda Pavlak. The concerts have been held in the park's amphitheater for the past three summers.
This summer, Funky Fridays started drawing as many as 500 people. But last month, the state stepped in and put a cap on attendance, permitting only 125 people to attend. For Myers, it was a shocking setback.
At the heart of the dispute is an unfiled "project evaluation form" that calls for extensive reviews of the event's environmental impact. Team Sugarloaf finally filed that form in July, though there's little chance of the state lifting the cap by the end of the summer, says Myers.
"The state is pointing to the fact that the amphitheater is designed, their words, 'for 125 people,'" says Myers. "What they really should be saying is that there is bench seating for 125 people, but indeed most people prefer to bring their own chairs and blankets and sit on the lawn."
In an email, State Parks Sonoma Sector superintendent Vincent Anibale says the agency isn't trying to shut down Funky Fridays.
"However, we are in the process of making sure all aspects are in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act to ensure concerts . . . can be held at the site without violating current state and county laws."
Myers claims that there have been no negative impacts on the park. He says the parking is adequate for up to 500 people, and the already established walk paths and amphitheater space mean there's no trampling of natural habitat. And the Funky Fridays concerts have been a boon for the park, raising $30,000 last year. Myers estimates well over $20,000 of potential revenue was lost this summer due to the attendance cap. He says 125 attendees is too few to raise meaningful funds.
"We would make such a pittance after expenses," he says. "It would not be worth the effort."
Still, Team Sugarloaf is hopeful it can work something out with the state this off-season. For now, guests are encouraged to buy tickets in advance for what may be the last Funky Friday shows.
Funky Fridays conclude this summer with the Jami Jamison Band, on
Aug. 28, and A Case of the Willys, on Sept. 4, at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, 2605 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood. 6:30pm. $10. Funkyfridays.info.