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Mance Buchanon Park is home to some of Oceanside's sports fields. A group of Parks and Recreation commissioners are reviewing the application process to access those fields, which seem in short supply. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Mance Buchanon Park is home to some of Oceanside's sports fields. A group of Parks and Recreation commissioners are reviewing the application process to access those fields, which seem in short supply. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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Oceanside committee to share findings on ‘lack of access’ to sports fields

OCEANSIDE — After months of hearing testimony from recreational sports teams across Oceanside, the city’s ad hoc committee will soon deliver its findings on whether the application process for sports teams to access municipal gyms and fields is fair for everyone.

The ad hoc committee was formed in November at the request of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Wilson Godinet, a longtime community member who has been involved in the city’s recreational sports scene for decades. Godinet had observed growing challenges when it came to finding fields to use for sports teams.

“I grew up in this community. … I’ve seen a lot of what it used to be like and it’s not like that anymore,” he said. “It hasn’t been like that for a long time.”

The purpose of the committee is to review the field application process and the availability of fields to identify areas in need of improvement and find solutions to existing issues with the process.

A few months after the committee was formed, a forum was held on March 2 to hear from sports teams about what they experienced while trying to access fields. Parks and Recreation Commission members who are part of the committee, including Godinet, Genevieve Wunder and former commissioner Amanda Nelson, all said they were shocked and appalled after hearing what the teams had to say.

Some teams not only complained about the lack of access to fields but also how they felt they had been treated unfairly and condescendingly by city staff and that they felt excluded in favor of other sports teams.

“There were a lot of complaints about not getting fields, and then teams would try to call the Parks and Rec administration and they didn’t get the response they were looking for,” Godinet said at a follow-up meeting on April 27.

Godinet said for about 80% of those teams, all he had to do was call his brother, Wayne Godinet, who would then help those teams get field access.

“We shouldn’t have to call Wayne or the mayor to get something done,” Wilson Godinet said. “This should be done with more dignity and class and professionalism — some of the stuff we’ve uncovered wasn’t like that.”

Wilson Godinet noted that following the March 2 meeting, several sports teams obtained permits for field access almost immediately.

Wayne Godinet, also a well-known, longtime member of the Oceanside community, said he sent a letter to then-City Manager Deanna Lorson late last year about the “15 years of frustration” that he has experienced when it comes to sports field access.

Nelson, who was a Parks and Recreation Commissioner until she had to relocate farther south, left a letter for the April 27 meeting noting that the experience presented by sports teams was sharply at odds with staff’s seemingly rosy presentation on the application process.

“The presentation by city staff indicated a belief that the current system is working well,” Nelson’s letter read. “I believe we can be confident in the initial finding that this is not true.”

Many smaller teams feel that the Breakers youth soccer league has been shown favoritism due to the amount of field access they have, including the SoCal Sports Complex controlled by El Corazon’s developer, Sudberry Properties.

Director of coaching Frank Zimmerman said that the only reason Breakers has more fields than other sports teams is because of the sheer size of the league’s member roster, which outnumbers most, if not all, of the other sports teams throughout the city. Zimmerman also said that like everyone else, the soccer league doesn’t have the number of fields it actually needs.

“We need 14 fields but we only have nine,” Zimmerman said.

Others also suggested that Coastal Academy, a public charter high school, was also shown favoritism when it came to field and gymnasium access. Commissioners were particularly concerned about a perceived conflict of interest involving Coastal Academy and the city’s sports program Specialist CJ Palmer, whose children attend Coastal Academy. Palmer also volunteers as an assistant coach for the school’s junior varsity boys basketball team that his son plays on.

Parks and Recreation division manager Mark Olson originally reorganized staff in November, when the ad hoc committee was formed, but Olson said was the timing of the reorganization was coincidental. Olson moved the previous staff members managing the sports program to focus on bringing back more senior citizen programming and assigned new staff to the sports program, including choosing Palmer as its specialist.

Palmer told Olson about his involvement with his son’s basketball team. While Olson didn’t find this to be an immediate issue, he noted that it would later become a problem of competing interest if Coastal Academy and another basketball team both requested the same time and space.

“In that case, I would step in and handle it,” Olson said.

So far that hasn’t happened yet, according to Olson, who noted the basketball teams already had their permits approved by the previous sports staff last summer.

According to Olson, all teams that submitted applications for a field or gym-use permit since November have been approved, even if they did not necessarily receive exactly what they requested. The process has become easier to manage now that the system switched from paper applications to online applications.

“Prior to that, it was still extremely high, but maybe not 100% due to many factors,” Olson said.

Demand for field use has also increased over the years with more year-round sports seasons, according to Olson, which creates more scheduling issues and increases wear and tear on the fields. Fields are closed in the summer months for maintenance and restoration.

Another issue commissioners face is related to the city’s joint use agreement with Oceanside Unified School District, which sets the terms to allow the city access to school sports fields and vice versa.

The most recent joint use agreement expired last August. Parks and Recreation staff members have been working on negotiating a new agreement with the school district; meanwhile, the expired agreement’s terms have been kept in place.

The agreement places school sports teams under a priority tier, eliminating the rental fee for field or gym time and only charging staff support time. The city has been including Coastal Academy as part of that agreement because the school is publicly chartered through Oceanside Unified, but Coastal Academy isn’t actually part of that agreement according to district staff.

“If the district has a problem with that interpretation, then maybe we should have a direct joint use agreement with Coastal,” Olson told The Coast News. “If that makes people feel more comfortable, then maybe we should do that.”

In terms of the joint use agreement with the school district, Olson is hoping to work out a way to increase access to the district’s fields. One of the existing challenges is the current agreement prevents outside groups from using school campuses until after all school-related activity has concluded. Most campuses have after-school activities until 5 p.m. and sometimes later.

The ad hoc committee is scheduled to deliver its findings to the Parks and Recreation Commission for consideration at the May 17 meeting.