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Whose Park Is It Anyway?

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
March 26, 1998


Spring has sprung, Earth Day is less than a month away, and the people of Encinitas are fighting over a proposed park that could mean the difference between a misguided museum, and much needed open space. At issue is a small piece of city-owned land that has been designated as a neighborhood park complete with picnic tables, walking paths, a couple tennis courts and two acres for a historic site. This was established a few years ago by a city initiative called Proposition O. Over that last few years at least three committees have agreed that this was the best use, and that the main focus of the site would be the restored Cottonwood Creek.

Sound like a good idea that everyone could get behind? Well it wasn't. It seems that a group of well meaning citizens decided that their idea of philanthropy needed to be nestled in the heart of the city, and that two acres wasn't enough to suit them. So they went about strong arming the city for more, but I get ahead of myself. First let me introduce you to the players in this political drama, and yes, this is shaping up to be a doozy. First we have the San Diegiuto Heritage Museum. This organization is determined to bring history back to life no matter the cost. Kind of like Frankenstein, but this time with tractors.

Next we have a task force, assembled to address the community needs in regards to this proposed park. The problem with this is one minor detail, the majority of this supposedly unbiased committee are members of the aforementioned San Dieguito Heritage Museum. Also on this committee are three Parks and Recreation commissioners, one beleaguered chair of The Cottonwood Creek conservancy, and two city councils members, both of which sit on the Board of Directors for the San Dieguito Heritage Museum. The wife of one of these councilmembers has the honor of being the president of the SDHM. If only Cotton wood creek was still running, we could call this Whitewater West. You can only guess who gets to play Slick Willie. Where is Kenneth Starr when we need him?

Add to the mix an architectural firm that chooses not to hear both sides, a group of citizens demanding to be heard, and an election that is looming just round the corner. Combine all of these together and what you have is a hot button issue that could decide the future for two incumbents running for reelection. The question is whose special interest will it be politically advantageous to support ? The question I would like to ask is when did the people of Encinitas decided they wanted the SDHM to decide what was historically important to this very diverse populace. Somehow I doubt the nice ladies of Olivenhain will give much credence to Encinitas's still thriving surf culture. I'm sure the family history of the areas pioneers is fascinating. I mean come on, destruction of Native American culture is the stuff of Hollywood, but there has to be more than to it than the adventures of the Swiss Family Wiegand. Next to the remnants of tribal life they could build a big treehouse. Oops, sorry, wrong myth.

There has also been talk of a veterans memorial. Now I'm not usually one to dignify war, but isn't a statue more appropriate to a neighborhood park. How much money does it take to keep up a bronze figure? A city worker to cleanup bird poop and graffiti? Now compare that to the amount it will cost to keep a museum afloat. In all of the rhetoric bandied about I have yet to hear the name of the benefactor who will support this white elephant. Wait, I take that back. There are no elephants, white or otherwise, in Encinitas's past. But to be honest I'm not up to date on Olivenhain's colorful past.

Let's face it, this proposed museum will be nothing more than a tragic reminder of all that we have lost to wheels of progress. And let's be honest, if the early settlers could see what we did to there once beautiful home, they would be rolling over in their graves. Wait! Did you feel that?

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