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Playing Games with Kids, Creeks and Credibility

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
August 19, 1999


Last week, being a masochist, I attended two meetings at Encinitas city hall. On Tuesday I was at the Parks and Rec commission where another chance to restore that city's riparian corridors was squandered away. On Wednesday I watched as city staff was allowed to completely dismiss potential threats to the Batisquitos Lagoon while continuing to cloud environmental issues with linguistic slights of hand.

At issue on Tuesday was the plans for a proposed eight acre park at the corner of Encinitas Blvd and Vulcan Blvd. As a member of the Moonlight Creek Park Association I was there to speak on behalf of the resounding majority of Encinitas voters who asked that Cottonwood Creek be restored as part of this park project. Proposition X also called for two acres for a heritage museum, a veterans memorial, a childrens' play area, and tennis courts.

When the Plan D was approved the only thing that did not make it was the daylighted creek. Granted city staff peppered their proposals and recommendations with vague language such as "enhancing the existing creek." When I pointed out to staff and the Parks and Rec. Commission that enhancement was a far cry from restoration, and that enhancement can be interpreted to mean adding a few cosmetic touches such as benches and trash cans. The point was not contested.

From the dais, newly elected commissioner John Gill said that the creek issue seemed moot and that he was not in favor of restoring the creek. When asked to explain his position, Mr. Gill said he was firmly in favor of creek restoration, but not at this site. When asked to defend that position, He said that since Cottonwood Creek has been all but buried, excluding the small portion west of the Coast Highway, he saw no reason to restore it now. Out of sight out of mind seems to work for this youth sports booster. It's rather tragic that our community leaders are perpetuating the ideology of either/or.

Three issues on the councils Wednesday agenda only strengthened my opinion that people running the city of Encinitas, save for a few individuals such as Parks Commissioner Don Houston, Councilmember Dennis Holz, and Mayor Sheila Cameron, have no concern for the environment. Word play and spin in the form of environmental platitudes, has replaced sound policy that looks beyond the tenuous argument of absolute property rights, and increased revenues. I can't help but wonder how much of the revenue harvested by over-development goes to keeping the good old boys in Development Services employed.

Whenever I ask why the only open space remaining in Encinitas is restricted to Indian Head Canyon and steep hillsides I am told there is no money to buy parkland, let alone passive use native habitat. The decision to deny the appeal of residents opposing a proposed greenhouse on Saxony, one that will release herbicides and pesticides into near Batisquitos Lagoon, was neatly sandwiched between the city doling out money to both the Youth and Arts  Commissions to further their admittedly vague visions.

Both groups played on the fear of teen drug and alcohol abuse as why they needed a hefty hand out. A much needed reality check is the fact that only one young person was present to ask for money. Everyone else was the usual middle-aged suspects circling the money pool. What is obvious to me is that certain adults are playing politics with the youngest members of our community. Included in this charade are council members, past and present, who have had more than enough opportunity to do right for young people. As I am sure you will agree, Encinitas needs parks, a library, sport fields of all kinds, a civic pool and a library. Yet instead of providing ample space for all of these, past city councils have provided these kids with a golf course. Why is it that adults out number the kids on the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course. Perhaps it is the 50 Dollar weekend tee fee.

The City now says it is forced to place a soccer complex next to a fragile and endangered coastal lagoon habitat. It seems past councils have made the current council responsible for having to chose between kids and the environment. If past councils had really been concerned about our cities youth they would have required the developers of Encinitas Ranch, the Carltas Company, to build a youth center instead of a golf course as part of the 850 acre master planned mixed use development. It is because of this little piece of history that the politicking of certain individuals rings very inauthentic.

Parks are the best youth center possible, not only do they give young people plenty of space to run, and room to breath. They also protect much needed native open space. Which in turn would help center the youth Encinitas.

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