Thursday, November 27, 2014 • 10:50

Rodney King, sensible solutions, and new Valley Center sports fields

November 26, 2014
Kids playing soccer and lacrosse is good. Remembering the past is good. Why not have both take place at the same place?

It seems like a no-brainer. Yet, the issue has lingered for more than two years with no agreement in sight.

As the infamous late Rodney King once asked: Can't we all get along?

The issue dates to 1933 when the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, built some buildings it occupied on a two-acre parcel off Cole Grade Valley Road by Valley Center Elementary School. The CCC yielded to the California State Guard 8th Regiment from 1940 to 1947. After that, it was owned and operated by the California Department of Forestry.

Forestry folk moved to new headquarters a mile down the road in 2006. The school district bought the parcel and building in 2011, reportedly for $255,000 although district officials never officially disclosed the price.

Well-known local businessman Arie de Jong offered to buy the parcel back from the school district for the same amount of money, restore the buildings for community and school use, then sell the property back to the school district for the same amount of money.

While the de Jong deal sounded a bit weird, actually, the school district didn't wait around to hear more. AAA Demolition crews, at school district bidding, suddenly demolished the buildings in March 2013.

A group calling itself the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Interest Group sued the school district saying the district board violated state law by the way it handled the decision and acted contrary to the environmental impact report.

This lawsuit went all the way to the Fourth District Court of Appeal where it was dismissed due to lack of evidence. Probably the only people happy with the case were the attorneys who got paid as a result.

That takes us to this month as the school district held a groundbreaking and began construction of what are intended to serve as youth soccer and lacrosse fields.

The Valley Center planning group, with non-binding advisory powers, continues to push for a proper memorial on the site.

The latest effort came two weeks ago when the group issued a letter saying it wanted a 10,000-square foot corner of the property to be used as "a memorial to the previous users of the site without detracting from the intended use of the site as a sports field."

The group said a kiosk providing educational information about the site would be provided by an anonymous donor. It said donors would provide "an attractive 'pocket park'" at the school entrance at no charge to the district.

Planning group members want to meet with school district officials to discuss the proposition. No word from district officials on whether they will take up the offer.

Frankly, each side appears to have some good points and bad points in the long-standing shall-we-agree-to-disagree scenario.

School district officials have been anything but transparent. They've met behind closed doors to decide some matters and have not been forthcoming with timetables or public outreach. Even the superintendent last week didn't return phone calls to the Roadrunner asking for comments. No big whoop, but still, a bit dicey.

On the other hand, the ad-hoc historical groups leave a bit to be desired. Their plans seem overblown, not particularly compatible with sports fields and a nearby elementary school. They want 15 percent of the parcel turned over the CCC Camps memorial, which may crimp sports programming.

While the CCC Camps are historically relevant, and interesting, they're not remarkable on the order of, say, El Prado or the Mission San Luis Rey.

Here's what we think about all this. Firstly, let's put a few school district leaders and community planning group members in the same room, so they can discuss this.

Then, lets talk about something to be put near the fields commemorating the camp, maybe a small kiosk with historical documentation. How about calling the sports fields something like the CCC Memorial Fields?

The fact is this school parcel is going to be used for sports and should be used for sports. Too much historical hubbub and traffic detracts from overall use of the fields by kids.

Yet, something should be done to remember the past. Let's be sensible, act like adults, and find that middle-ground already, lawyers and hurt feelings be damned.

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