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Unfair Expansion

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
June 1, 2001


For those of you who have not been paying attention, the 22nd District Agricultural Association is currently in the process of updating their master plan, and boy is it a doozy. Not to be constrained by biological limitations the 22nd DAA want's to expand its facilities, operations, and attendance in an environmentally friendly way. From my perspective this is in no way possible.

I am commenting on this is because a consultant for the agricultural district called for my opinion on the expansion. Talk about opening Pandora's box. The reason I have yet to speak out on the recent plan was mainly due to the fact that I have already gone on record stating that I would like to see the fair grounds relocated, and the estuary they now sit on restored. So why waste print space on an impossible dream. But since I was asked, I figured why not contribute to the ongoing debate.

Putting all biases aside, which is not easy to do considering how I feel about horse racing in general, and the exploitation of horses in particular, I looked at the Master Plan in its current form, with an open mind. It's a shame the folks preparing the updated master plan are unwilling to do the same. In fact it seems the Agricultural District is deeply locked into a sprawl mentality and are aiming to spread east of Interstate 5 with the construction of an off site training facility.

Now most of you are probably thinking; "Why don't they just redevelop the current site?" Instead of retaining sprawling parking lots they could build a parking structures that free up significant amount of land for the new and improved training facilities, exhibition halls, living quarters for trainers and staff, stables, and Horsemen's village. Instead the DAA wants to terminate the use of the existing training track and redevelop it into a yet another parking lot. I just don't get it.

Trying to better understand what the Agricultural District was really about, I decided it was time to talk to the Tim Fennel the General Manager. Tim was a nice enough; believed everything he was saying, and seemed to really enjoy his job. What I got from our conversation was what I expected, more economic mumbo jumbo about job creation, and providing recreational space for the people of San Diego County.

He also wanted to let me know the 22nd DAA has made environmental preservation a core element of their master plan. Questions about building in a flood plain, next to a river, on top of an estuary, were not so easy to answer. He said over crowding of racehorses was the real issue, not the urine and feces resulting from the animals. When asked if by chance there was a place better suited to relocate the fair grounds as to accommodate expansion and wetland restoration, he said that the coast was the best place for those utilizing the fair grounds for fun and profit. In classic Cool Hand Luke style, ours was a failure to communicate.

The one thing I did understand is how important it is for those of us who care about the environment to get involved in the shaping of the plans for the expansion/redevelopment of the fair grounds and racing facilities. The next two opportunities are Tuesday June 5th and Wednesday August 1st at 1pm in the Mission Tower on the Del Mar Fair Grounds. Please be there, I will.

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