The Lake Gregory Improvement Committee (LGIC) reported their progress at the recent meeting of the Crest Forest Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC). Supervisor Janice Rutherford was unable to attend, but her representative Lewis Murray was present. Members of the public came to a standing-room-only meeting, with about 50 people present in the conference room at the Crestline Sanitation District Office at 24516 Lake Drive in Crestline, across from the lake.
Plans for the repairs and improvements to Lake Gregory and the dam did not raise any controversy, but proposals to generate more revenue from the park resulted in heated arguments. Rim of the World Parks and Recreation District (ROTWPRD) strenuously objected to the proposal that their lease of the community field (sometimes referred to as the “ball field”) not be renewed. Their primary objection seemed irrelevant to the issues at hand.
ROTWPRD representatives objected that we must not eliminate Little League baseball, yet nobody was proposing such an outcome. Changing the management over to San Bernardino County Regional Parks (RP) would not necessarily result in blocking use of the community field by Little League baseball teams, but it can result in revenue increases. The County general fund is not a magical pot of money that grows whenever we plant some magic beans. It is our tax money, and furthermore, it is empty. The regional parks must become self-supporting. Little League baseball does not generate any revenues for the park, and it is not the only reasonable use for that venue.
The original lease of the community field (sometimes referred to as the “ball field”) to ROTWPRD ran for 25 years, and they have received two extensions of six months each. The current extension expires on April 30, 2012. ROTWPRD has been paying the nominal rent of one dollar a year to San Bernardino County Regional Parks (RP) for that lease, which the County can no longer afford to subsidize. RP already manages most of the venues at our regional park, with the exception of the community field and Leisure Shores Senior Citizens Center.
LGIC chairman Rick Dinon and LGIC member Mick Hill emphasized the need to increase revenues to support Lake Gregory Regional Park (LGRP), since the County will no longer subsidize the costs of operations and maintenance of any of the regional parks in these hard economic times.
A survey has been distributed to members of the community, and about 300 surveys have been returned so far. A meeting is scheduled for March 3, 2012, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the San Moritz Lodge, to report on progress to date and feedback from the survey. The committee developed several recommendations, based in part on that survey, and those recommendations have been submitted to the County for action by May 2012.
When MAC member Leslie Dodge-Taylor moved that MAC also send a recommendation to the County for non-renewal of the lease, ROTWPRD representatives objected that the committee ought to gather feedback from the community before making such a decision. That objection seemed out of touch with the reality that LGIC did gather feedback from the community through their survey, which continues to be available to the public at several locations, and which they advertised in the local newspaper. In addition, the public is welcome at monthly MAC meetings, which provide a public comment period. After much heated discussion from the audience, MAC member Connie Bracher’s amendment to the motion, which states that the County should review the current lease agreement, was passed unanimously by the MAC board. It is important to note that MAC is an advisory committee and does not have the authority to decide this matter.
One member of ROTWPRD objected that new revenue-generating events will not “come to us”, just because management is turned over to the County. This raises the question of whether ROTWPRD has been waiting for events to fall into their laps, or whether they have been seeking revenue-generating events. It appears that they have not been seeking events, and that they have rejected events that might have generated revenue. Their reasoning, which they made clear at the meeting, has been that such events might damage the field, making it unsuitable for Little League baseball.
By their own words and actions over the past several years, ROTWPRD has been running a deficit. Moreover, they have chosen to reserve the use of the community field almost exclusively for Little League baseball, even though the park loses money on that event; it does not cover the cost of lighting the field or watering the grass. ROTWPRD pointed out that they have spent a great deal of money on repairs to the grass, the dugouts and other aspects of the ball field, in order to meet the requirements of Little League baseball. However, they failed to point to any actions that they might have taken to make the field more accessible to the community as a whole.
Adding to the frustration of the public, ROTWPRD has excluded the community as a whole from enjoyment of the benefits of that community field, which was created and continues to be maintained by the tax dollars and sweat labor of the community as a whole, including several non-profit organizations. In fact, Measure N was passed to provide tax money for the operations and maintenance of our community field. Yet ROTWPRD has recently rejected proposals for the simplest and most traditional community events that have taken place on the community field for many years.
The annual community picnic, which has been a steady revenue generator, was severely restricted by ROTWPRD, especially with regard to food vendors, who were not allowed onto the field. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) were first rejected, and then presented with an outrageously high rental price with severe restrictions on parking, in order to hold their annual car show. ROTWPRD justified these actions by pointing to a county ordinance that was intended to prevent the establishment of an unpaved parking lot, but not to prevent food vendors from parking their trucks for a single day, and certainly not to prohibit a car show. It gets worse.
The VFW was not allowed to hold their annual chili cook-off, based on the premise that they might damage the grass, making the field unsuitable for Little League baseball. For the same reason, ROTWPRD rejected the proposal for the annual Easter Egg Hunt for small children in the community.
ROTWPRD seems to be operating under the false assumption that our community field should be reserved for the sole use and benefit of Little League baseball, to the exclusion of the community which pays for that field.
The fact remains that LGRP requires substantial new revenue to support continuing operations and maintenance, and ROTWPRD has provided no revenue. LGIC recommended that the management of the community field be turned over to San Bernardino Regional Parks (RP), the agency which manages the park as a whole, including the San Moritz Lodge, which plays host to a variety of indoor community events. The County has retained a public relations firm to develop a plan for building revenues through marketing and promotion of the park.
The County has also developed a volunteer program for community assistance at regional parks, and they will institute that program for volunteer maintenance at Lake Gregory in the near future.
If ROTWPRD wants to maintain their position as managers of our community field, then they need to put a stop to their stubborn unresponsiveness to the community which created and maintains that field through our money and our sweat labor.
Comments from the audience began with Gary Duncan from VFW, who complained that ROTWPRD is demanding $8 thousand in fees to hold their annual car show, which amounts to a rejection of their proposal, since they cannot afford it.
Local reporter and Rim of the World Historical Society member Rhea-Frances Tetley reminded us that community members planted the original sod on our community field, and that it is a community field, not a ball field.
Retired Deputy Sheriff Mark Parsons asserted that our children will become juvenile delinquents if they can’t play baseball. He claimed that “there is nothing else for our children to do” in Crestline, which is false on the face of it. We have a skate park, tennis and basketball courts, a public library, a Boys and Girls Club, and a bowling alley, to name a few. And in the summer, our children can participate in water activities at Lake Gregory. We have fishing, paddle boats, water slides, sandy beaches and more. Besides, not every child wants to play baseball or has any ability or talent for the game. We could have picnics, car shows, chili cook-offs and Easter egg hunts, if the parks board allowed such activities.
Steve Ferrel commented that we need a specific plan to do something positive with the property (the community field).