RANCHO SANTA FE —The Association voted to give $25,000 toward the purchase of playground equipment, but did not approve the park promoters’ suggestion that the equipment be placed at the Rancho Santa Fe Arroyo property.
Instead, the Association said it would come back in 60 days with suggestions where the equipment should be placed.
It was standing room only for proponents of the park, especially mothers with young children who had come to speak in support of the park at the Association’s Nov. 3 meeting.
The placement for a proposed playground has been a controversy for many years. Each time a location has been suggested, it has been rejected because many people did not want it in their neighborhoods.
Because of the lack of a playground in the Covenant in the past, children have been invited to play at the playground at the Village Church and at the R. Roger Rowe School, but these places are not always available when small children are ready to play.
Director Larry Spitcaufsky said he was in favor of the park and one of the reasons is because there is a certain pride in ownership.
Supporters believed that the Arroyo property would be the perfect place because the property is owned by the Association, but it is outside the Covenant, three miles away from the center of the village.
“We have been working quite a few months on these issues,” said Heather Slosar, who has been spearheading the park movement.
Slosar, the mother of five, said during her research she learned that 28 percent of Covenant members have children under 10.
“This is our opportunity to say Rancho Santa Fe is not just about tennis, golf and retirees,” she said. “It is also a great place for kids.”
The proposed structure is a commercial-grade product made of natural cedar logs. It consists of four short towers with roofs for shade. The towers provide climbing structure with slides from the tower to the ground. The structure also has a rock climbing wall, a rope climber, a balance beam and is approved for disabled children with an ADA transfer station.
Glen Oratz said several years ago he started working toward having a park with play equipment in the Covenant, but was unsuccessful.
“I got caught up in the NIMBY (not in my backyard),” he said. “Rancho Santa Fe has lots of land. Rancho Santa Fe has no place for children to play.
“I appeal to you that time is now,” he said. “We are on the 1 yard line and it is time to take it over and score the touchdown.”
Asked if he had tried to position the playground near the soccer fields, which seemed like an appropriate site, Oratz said he had, but had been rejected.
Kathy Malek told the board that because of its rural character, there is no place for a child to ride a bicycle.
“Unless you have a long driveway, where does a kid learn to ride a bicycle?” she asked.
On the other side of the issue were people like Bill Hinchy, a former board member who raised three children in Rancho Santa Fe and who told the board that this and other open space areas are meant to be passive space. The idea of opening it up to be an active space is a “slippery slope” to having it grow into a full-on park for which the Association would have to assume the liability.
“The board has to think very deeply about this decision,” Hinchy said.
Tom Clotfelter told the board that opening up this property for activity threatens the wildlife corridor.
Still, Rochelle Putnam said she is in favor of the project.
“I really do believe the play structure will have a very low impact,” she said. “This seems like a good idea and the opportunity to say that young families are welcome here.”
Director Eamon Callahan said he agreed the park is needed, but he had second thoughts about the proposed location.
“I’m not sure of Arroyo as the location,” he said.
Director Dick Doughty, who also raised a family in Rancho Santa Fe, said the proposed location is “grossly inappropriate.”
“This proposal needs to be looked at very carefully,” Doughty said.
Director Anne Feighner said she understands the frustration of people who want a park because a few years ago, she had been among those who supported having a pool in the Covenant, which never materialized.
She said she would like to have a park as well, but not at the proposed location.
“I love and support playground equipment, but is that the best place in our community for it?” she asked.
Two weeks earlier, at its Oct. 20 meeting, the issue was put before the Association, and members toured the proposed park area and the play equipment at the Village Church, which is similar to that proposed for the Arroyo property.