READER’S EDITORIAL: ALPINE COUNTY PARK CAN BECOME A REALITY. HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP

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By C. Bonsignore, Alpine

September 4, 2017 (Alpine) -- Imagine a picnic under a shade tree in a cool grassy park, relaxing with friends and the whole family, while the kids play on swings and slides, the teens on the skateboard ramps, there are fire pits, barbecues, restrooms, fountains, dog frisbee, seniors playing bocce ball and 24/7 access, right here in Alpine..

This can become a reality. The County of San Diego has approximately $900,000 in Park Land Designated Ordinance (PLDO) funds available to our Alpine community to establish a County Park.

Our neighbors of Descanso, Harbinson Canyon, Flynn Springs, Lakeside, Santee... have wonderful County Parks.

Alpine has been using these PLDO funds over the years for school improvements rather than save them, and buy land suitable for a Community Park.

Now the Alpine Education Foundation (AEF)  and the Alpine Community Planning Group (ACPG) are attempting to siphon off these PLDO funds once again, this time to install artificial turf fields at JMMS that won't even be available to the public during school hours or after school while other groups pay to use the fields.

A school is not a public park.

Please let the ACPG and the AEF and the County Board of Supervisors know in writing that as member of the Alpine Community you would prefer to save our PLDO funds with the goal of acquiring the land in Alpine suitable to build and enjoy a County Park for All.


The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastecountymagazine.org.

 

Comments

Inadequate parks in Alpine. School fields not a solution.

Why should we have to drive to Santee, Lakeside, and Harbison Canyon for a nice park? What parent wants their toddler crawling on a plastic grass sports field of spit and sweat? Where would a moms' group take non school-age kids to play during the school day?... To a park, not a school. Alpine needs, and the community deserves a nice(r) park with shade and bathrooms. If we don't have the money for buying a new huge park, lets improve the ones we have and work towards a better one in the future. Lets put up shade and put in bathrooms at the parks we have. Lets keep schools and parks separate, as they should be. Lets also look into the survey results when county was asking for input of park improvement ideas last year. Lets see what the park going public asked for more of/ improvements of/ uses the most now. And lets all watch out for the crowd that is vandalizing our existing park behind the library.

I don't think so

Mr. Barnett has a great dissertation, but much of it doesn't hold water. Let's look at some of the things he says. In some emails he is sending to people, he asserts that the fields at JMMS were created using $400,000 of PLDO funds when it was constructed. I am not sure if this is correct, but if we assume it is, one must ask why AUSD did not maintain it as County Regulations require that another entity must maintain facilities paid for with PLDO funds. In other words, the reason these fields are from the "middle ages" is that AUSD did not uphold its requirements under the agreement it has with the County. Are we to now give AUSD another $900,00, for a total of $1.3 million, and expect AUSD to take care of it when it hasn't in the past? BTW, what can the County, or anyone, do if AUSD doesn't? This is especially tenuous when we throw Mr. Barnett's "nonprofit" into the mix to "manage" it. We will then have a nonprofit with cannot be part of any agreement between the school district and the County, and therefore not be accountable in any way, "managing" this facility. This does not even bring into play some of the issues raised in other forums r.e. priority between "paying" users of this facility such as sports leagues and private nonpaying users such as children's birthday parties, family reunions or even individual use. Then, we must add in the lack of public restroom facilities, assuming JMMS closes/locks the school restrooms at the end of the school day (the other option being the district leaves them unlocked inviting vandalism or worse). As to Wright's Field, or more specifically Back Country Land Trust's (BCLT's) portion of Wright's, George glosses over the shortcomings of this land in his zeal to provide an "alternative" to a true park for Alpine. Wright's has no parking, no restrooms, no sports fields, no open grassy area for games, no areas for picnics (not to mention benches or covers) and probably most important, no ADA access. Add into this that BCLT, as a private entity, can limit activities on their portions of Wright at any time and in any manner, that BCLT directs dogs must be on a leash (e.g. no activities off leash such as are permitted at Coronado's dog beach or Dusty Rhodes in Pacific Beach) and that the Apollo Group, which owns the parcels to the east and south of BCLT's parcels on Wright's could forbid access at any time, it becomes clear that George's alternative to a true public park doesn't cut the mustard. I think we all need to ask the County to keep the $900,000 in PLDO funds away from AUSD, BCLT and the nebulous "nonprofit" so that others can do their best to find land in Alpine that ALL of us can enjoy. Thank you.

Joan MacQueen & Wright's Filed

Readers may be interested in this tidbit. If you enjoy going out onto Wrights Field, thank Alpine Union School District! One of the very first Wright's Field land parcels conserved was made available by AUSD as part of its environmental mitigation obligations when Joan MacQueen Middle School was built. The two have always had a beneficial and symbiotic relationship. One example from just this year; Alpine Education Foundation, AUSD and the Back Country Land Trust conducted the "Living Classroom" this past spring and summer. AEF/AUSD designed and conducted environmental instruction in the classroom, and BCLT designed and conducted environmental execution programs on Wright's Field, The program reached 550 student and about 100 parents and teachers. Having a robust, distinguished middle school right smack next door to an acknowledged environmental preserve that is open to the public is a great community strength.

Alpine County Park

The County Park Land Development Ordinance only funds infrastructure. It does not fund operations. Because of extreme limited flat land in Alpine with road access, power, water and sewer, buying 10 acres of land generally within the Alpine community, generally central and accessible by walking, and with filed subdivision mapping would cost $2 million. Improving the land and building the basics of a park could easily be $3 million. A simple 10-acre parkland will cost $5 million. The PLDO account took over a decade to build to its current level about $850,000. There has never been "millions of dollars" in Alpine's PLDO account. The last major project PLDO funded was the playing fields at Joan MacQueen nearly 20 years ago. At the time Joan MacQueen was planned, Alpine did not have enough assessed property value and bonding capacity was only adequate to build the bare school. The playing fields we do have were built from spending PLDO funds. I recollect that cost was $1.7 million; and that amount took a couple of decades to buildup. And that was also close to 20 years ago. Unless Alpine taxpayers want to tax themselves several million dollars to buy land (if it could be found) and then build an all new parkland, and then on top of that pay for all the costs of operating it, I personally don't think there will ever be an Alpine community park as described by Ms. Bonsignore. On the other hand, our middle school has appalling 3rd world quality playing fields. I suspect that by combining PLDO funds with other grant prospects we can upgrade the sports parkland we already have, that we taxpayers already own - Joan MacQueen. The core infrastructure of those playing fields has a value of perhaps $6 million dollars today. For just 20% from non-taxpayer sourced grant funds available, we can have a quite nice complex that better serves our school district's 1800 students, the 2000 students in our youth sports franchises (soccer, softball, football, lacrosse, etc.), and to the 1000s of Alpiners that routinely use all of our school playgrounds every day of the week now. Conversely stated, we can upgrade the Joan MacQueen fields at 80% LESS than building a new complex. How? By re-landscaping a non-regulation size, rock hard decomposed granite unimproved and unmarked 2.1 acre dirt field and a high-cost unquenchable water-thirsty 1.5 acre degraded 20-year old grass field with lower maintenance cost, regulation sized, multi-use fields suitable for soccer, softball and football fields based upon artificial turf. After a decade of the Planning Group's and Supervisor Dianne Jacob's Alpine Revitaliztion Program's search, no suitable and affordable property has been found. There really is just one choice. Improving the facilities we taxpayers already own - Joan MacQueen. And in my mind that choice provides the greatest benefit to all of Alpine, kids and adults alike; while elevating our school district middle school's playing fields from the Dark Ages to something that we would be proud of, that we would use more cost effectively and efficiently; and that would attract families to Alpine. Why do I care! I'm "old", but not old enough to not want to live in a nicer community with better lifestyle infrastructure. Good schools and good school facilities add enormous value to any community; and that in turn boosts property values because it attracts people to come and live. I think it will benefit my pocketbook; and everyone's too! I have three grandkids in our school district; and another coming in next year. I want them to experience a decent lifestyle that is also based upon a diversity of school and community sports programs. I believe they deserve better than the "dirt lot" fields of bygone years in the 1930s. But - that's just my opinion.

Alpine County Park

Alpine has been trying to get a community park built for over ten years ! Using ALL the money in the PLDO fund for initiating a sports complex project at Joan McQueen middle school is equivalent to GIVING UP on the dream. ACPG wants to PRIORITIZE the funds for a sports complex. The question to ask ourselves is "What is essential for a healthy community" ? Alpine will be entering a development phase and it is ESSENTIAL to give our input NOW if we want to see our community grow in a pleasing, and healthy way and not just a way that will fill the pockets of developers and land owners, and others who stand to profit. Think of what you admire in other communities that "have done it right".Let's try to emulate what has been proven to work, and make it our reality. All healthy communities know the importance of a community park and strive to make it their priority. This nonsense of prioritizing park funds for a sports complex (beginning with astroturf for a football field at Joan McQueen at an estimated cost of 1.2 million) is so far out, that it has to make you wonder, "What's really going on" ? If you care about our community, represent it in whatever way you can. If you are unable to come to a planning group meeting, write Dianne Jacob, our county supervisor.