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Kirk Effinger: With friends like these…

I think it’s fairly safe to say that if a proposal to install a recreation facility in a public park, encouraging healthy youth activity a community would normally support it. Normally.


Well, if there’s anything that can be said about Escondido and its politics, it’s that nothing is normal.

As has been documented in numerous media reports, a private contractor approached the city on the idea of building and operating a BMX racetrack on approximately two acres of land within Kit Carson Park.

If you substituted the words “nuclear storage facility” for BMX racetrack, you will get an idea of the level of animosity the proposal has met from opponents.

Friends of Kit Carson Park, a local group that formed when the city was entertaining an unpopular waterslide park proposal for the park, has come out in vocal opposition to the racetrack idea. Objections have run the full spectrum of NIMBY chestnuts from noise to traffic, parking to public safety — even the preservation of the always-popular California gnatcatcher.

The group, made up mostly of residents in the immediate area, has also found a number of supporters whose motivations are more political in nature, people who essentially look for ways to poke the eyes of the city council majority by objecting to virtually anything they appear to be in favor of.

In an attempt to appear open-minded, many of these opponents have said that they really like the idea of the BMX facility, just not in Kit Carson. Their suggestions for alternate locations run the gamut — from parks in other people’s neighborhoods, to the most condescending of all — placing it within the lower-income part of the city, ostensibly because the poor folks can’t afford to make their way to the facility if placed in Kit Carson Park.

This belies the fact that many adults and children from all over the city regularly use the park to participate in Little League, girl’s softball, adult softball, soccer, and so on.

The objections to the proposed location ignore the fact that the site is not some pristine wilderness within the park, but a dirt lot immediately adjacent to a number of other sports facilities, including softball/baseball fields and a hockey rink, and faces Bear Valley Parkway.

By all accounts the presentations made in two different public settings, including a Community Services Commission meeting was lacking. Genuine concerns were over the financial arrangements as well as the request for a 10-year lease to operator Vince McCurdy.

Normally the way to resolve concerns, if they can be, is to have all sides meet with one another. At the urging of a few individuals in the community who have been open-minded enough to not come out categorically opposed to the project, McCurdy has agreed to do just that.

Unfortunately, the leadership of the Friends has declared it a dead letter and refused to meet.

Others in the group have stated their goal is no more development of the park for any reason.

How community minded. Welcome to Escondido.

Kirk W. Effinger was born in San Diego and raised in Southern California. He and his family have been residents of San Marcos for the past 30 years.  His opinion columns have appeared regularly in the North County Times and, later, the San Diego Union-Tribune since 1995. He can be reached at  [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @kirkeffinger