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If you build it, they will drive there.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
August 14, 2007


I have to admit I am one of those "parks at all cost" people. Parks are civilized and civilizing. Parks are breathing room. Parks are a gift people give themselves. Parks are a luxury. Parks are about community. Parks are vital to maintain high standard quality of life in a region burdened with overpopulation.

Long suffering under a recognized deficit of parkland, and lack of open space, Encinitas is none-the-less recognized for the parks it does have. Cottonwood Creek Park and Leucadia Oaks Parks, are high quality examples of the planning that goes into developing public parks in this city of 63,000 people.

So why are parks are such a continuous matter in Encinitas?

Simply put, the reasons citing and developing parks in Encinitas is a contentious nightmare can be attributed to a glaring lack of vision, leadership, and follow through. If that wasn't enough, cronyism, social deafness, shortsightedness, belligerent bureaucracy, and calculated mendacity do nothing to insure public trust or respect.

The current "Residents vs City Hall" drama being played out in the former flower capital revolves around design and development of a community park on 43 acres of former green house land. With limited access and freeway frontage west of Interstate 5, the Hall Property, promises to be a first rate public amenity. Unfortunately the future park is already a political pawn, and has been planned with only lip service being paid to community input.

Beginning with the first meeting to discuss the possibilities of a $18 million bond to finance the purchase the property of Robert Hall, to the hiring of consultants, the sidelining of the Parks and recreation commission the fractionalization of park design, squabbling sports leagues, and lawsuits against the City, it seems this community park has done nothing but divide the community.

Representing a new level of civic activism, in a city known for it's bare-knuckle activism, red "Scale Back the Park" signs are now a common sight in Cardiff. Unfortunately, those signs will do nothing to divert the city from it's current course of mismanagement.

Where the residents of Encinitas were sold a community park, what the city is planning for is a regional sports venue, capable of hosting sports tournaments. According to Parks and Recreation Director Chris Hazletine, the city is planning for the "worst case scenario" of full park usage and the resulting need for parking and traffic accommodation.

That "worse case scenario" of a regional soccer tournament is what the neighbors fear most. And that is exactly what they can expect at least four times a year. Hazletine envisions at least four major events at the park each year.

The "Scale Back the Park" people, want it to be known they are not against anything, and recognizes the need for parks in Encinitas. Their concerns are all about safety and neighbor compatibility, and City staff's lack of concern regarding the inability of the surrounding infrastructure to absorb high volume park traffic.

"Scale Back the Park" has hired a conflict resolution mediator, with the intent of engaging the city council and sports league in a dialogue aimed at doing just that. Encinitas City Manager Phil Cotton should facilitate this meeting with concerned citizens. How could it hurt?

It's not like another round of public appeasement will make any difference. Right?

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