Of Lights And Trains
Last week I chose to cover the Skate Park issue extensively instead of attempting to cover all the issues discussed at the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation meeting on Thursday, June 27th. My plan was to followup shortly with the balance of the meeting. I'm finally getting back to it tonight.
There were two other very significant issues on the agenda. I'm not going to talk about tree removal requests.
LIGHTS VS. PEACE AND QUIET
AYSO District 97 has requested the commission to extend the permit for temporary lights to be used for practices on the Harper School fields. Many beleaguered neighbors contiguous to the property asked that the lights NOT be permitted, citing noise, odors from the generators (they are portable lights) and spillover lights onto their property.
A ONE-YEAR EXTENSION
Chairman Byron de Arakal led the discussion and, after thoroughly vetting the issue with the help of the other commissioners and stakeholders, he made a motion to extend the use of the lights at Harper School for one more year - the only other unacceptable choice would be to turn the kids away - to revisit the option of using Kaiser School in the future on a rotation basis, to investigate the availability and cost of sound-deadening blankets to wrap the units to cut noise and to guarantee that the lights will be turned off no later than 7:30 p.m. every night. That motion passed, 4-0. Commissioner Don Harper was absent from the meeting.
AN OK SOLUTION, FOR NOW
In my view, this solution works for now. The city is woefully short of fields, particularly lighted fields and especially on the Eastside of our city. AYSO District 97 is 51% Costa Mesa kids - the remainder come from Newport Beach. de Arakal promised to come to the homes of folks impacted by the lights on Cabrillo and elsewhere to see and hear the impacts in person. He also said he would set up meetings with Newport Beach officials to see what can be done to possibly include Mariners School in the "lighted" rotation.
OCME WANTS ANOTHER 25 YEARS
The other big issue on the agenda last Thursday was the expiring agreement between the City and the Orange County Model Engineers - the folks who operate and maintain the model trains in Fairview Park. The organization has had a permit for 25 years and were requesting a renewal/extension for another 25.
OCME BRINGS GREAT VALUE
Their presentation of the contributions they have made, and continue to make, to the community brought into very sharp focus the value that facility has had in our city for decades. de Arakal stated emphatically that he, personally, didn't want to see the trains leave the park.
However, there are those in the community who covet that chunk of land for more playing fields. The trains occupy 22 acres, roughly in the middle of a 40 acre chunk of the park on the east side of Placentia Avenue. It is likely that those who lust after that land may make overtures about some kind of re-configuration to "better" utilize the space. I'm not naming names here, but we all know "it's all about the kids", if you get my drift.
de Arakal proposed that the current agreement be extended through the end of 2014. In the interim the Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee will be going about doing its job of assessing the park, the current uses and the needs of the community in the future. It is certain that the OCME and the Harbor Soaring Society activities will be discussed at length by that body.
TAKE A LOOK AGAIN IN A YEAR
TOUGH TO SWALLOW
Certainly the good folks of the OCME were not happy with that decision, just as the Harbor Soaring Society was disappointed by their recent one-year extension. Both organizations have enjoyed much success and have played a big part in the recreational opportunities at Fairview Park and hope to continue to do so out into the future, too. The specter of parking lots and playing fields being located in areas they presently use make them very nervous. Personally, I think they have every reason to be nervous about it.
A BITTER, BUT REASONABLE SOLUTION
So, the Parks and Recreation Commission will recommend to the City Council that it extend the current agreement with the OCME for 18 months and base any future agreement on recommendations by the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee. It's not a great solution for the train folks, but it seems to be a reasonable option under the circumstances.
IT DESERVES WATCHING
That being said, it's going to be interesting to see how this, in fact, does shake out. I attended the first meeting of the Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee and there were some clear lines drawn that evening when Ron Amburgey and Brett Eckles - who spoke with passion about the need for fields during the Harper School lights issue - both gave strong impressions that they felt the model train area could be used better. They meant more playing fields.