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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
July 10, 2000


Recently I received a request from the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, asking for my continued membership. Two months ago, I would have gladly sent a check, but that was before the politicizing on the part of the conservancy's board. The fact that San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy is unwilling to challenge a misguided attempt to place an invasive sports park, in a place perfectly suited for preservation and restoration, tells this ex-member the conservancy is not the environmental group it pretends to be.

On June sixth, the Encinitas City Council bought the silence of the SELC, effectively assuring that the conservancy would not appeal or oppose the city's decision to develop a sports park next to the ecological reserve. The price for such silence? Limited access during breeding season, and a covenant banning night lighting. By restricting spring park usage the city seems to acknowledge the potential impacts to the threatened habitat.

Towards the end of a very disorganized council meeting, City Manager Kerry Miller and City Attorney Glen Sabine tried to add language to the covenant prohibiting the SELC from attending Coastal Commission hearings related to the appeal of the city's decision. The best the city could wrest from SELC was a statement that the city has "acted in good faith to mitigate the physical impacts of the project." Apologizing profusely, legal council for the SELC stated that the covenant would only assure a statement of neutrality, nothing more.

In this case, neutrality translates to neutered, as a majority of the conservancy's members oppose this encroachment on the estuary. Although members are free to submit their opposition to the project individually, a statement of neutrality on the part of the board is a fabrication, and misrepresents the intentions of the organization. Parking lots and lawns have never been native to the coastal habitat.

Other conservancy members have voiced similar concerns, yet feel it's important to continue supporting the organization for the ongoing efforts to get Highway 101 and the railroad tracks out of the lagoon. Fundamentally anthropocentric, the impetus behind lagoon "restoration" efforts have always been about protecting Cardiff's beach front restaurants from winter storms, not the health of the estuarine ecosystem.

With Encinitas City staff and Council deciding that 3 soccer fields are more important that an intact estuarine ecosystem, and the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy choosing not to fight this irresponsible decision, once again it is up to citizen activists to serve as environmental stewards. Ironically, last year SELC appealed the city's decision to allow a private school to be built adjacent to the proposed sports park.

As an EarthFirster, some things are beyond compromise, development along the banks of the San Elijo Lagoon being one of them. For this reason, and this reason alone, I can't give money to an organization who is not willing to fight to defend the ecological reserve against those who would diminish it's ecological balance. Having had conversations with the both executive director and the attorney for the conservancy, it would seem playing politics is more important than environmental sustainability.

For those wishing to help protect San Elijo ecological reserve from further encroachment, letters opposing the city of Encinitas' attempt to develop what should be passive use open space should be sent to the California Coastal Commission. Letters should be sent to 7575 Metropolitan Drive, Suite 103 San Diego, Ca. 92108-4402 addressed Appeal #A-6-ENC-00-086 Attention Gary Cannon.

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