Revite meeting updates residents on parks, traffic

Part II of 2 parts.
This is the second article on the quarterly “Revite” meeting held virtually March 19—with 5th District Supervisor Jim Desmond presiding—backed up by county officials available to answer questions.
Jake Enriquez, region manager, Department of Parks and Recreation, reported on VC’s county parks, starting off with Robert Adams County Park (known locally as Adams Parks.) He related some improvements and maintenance work done since the last “Revite” meeting.
Tennis courts five and six were cracked, sealed and repainted. An Eagle Scouts project rehabilitated the tennis court spectator seating. The County planted 20 large box trees. Enriquez observed, “The rain is treating them wonderfully. We have planted 40 trees and more coming. So we’ve been giving Adams Park a lot of love. It’s a heavily used facility and one of the gems of Valley Center.”
Another Adams Park project is the “state-of-the-art irrigation system” with a smart controller. It knows when it’s raining or when a sprinkler head is missing or there’s a break in the pipe. When problems arise, it shuts down and e-mails the operator.
Once rain stops they will run irrigation to the new trees, relying on a small well. “We will be conserving water in that way,” said Enriquez. “The park will be irrigated completely with well water. We’re adding two 5,000 gallon storage tanks. This allows us to have a reliable irrigation system and also gives us a bulk storage if needed for any public safety or response needs.”
Adams Park pool is heavily used by the high school aquatics teams this spring. “We’re getting into that busy season where we host a lot of school district activities and we’re very proud to do that,” said Enriquez. The park will host the school district’s June staff appreciation picnic and retirement celebrations.
June 15, VC Community Hall will host a senior class picnic. The Hall is getting a new five ton heater and HVAC system for the lower meeting room, which is heavily used. “We want to keep the kiddos warm,” he said. “We’ve got Taekwondo spirit martial arts down there.” There is also a lot of intergenerational programming at the Hall.
The ballfields hosted VC Little League’s opening night ceremonies. Little League participant enrollment increased by 100 players from 2022 to ‘23. In partnership with Little League on May 27 the County will host “Angels in the outfield.”
Sometimes people forget that Hellhole Canyon Preserve is also part of Valley Center, said Enriquez. They are hosting stargazing events, taking advantage of clear skies, organized by a local astronomy group. He said, “They do a fantastic job. The telescopes and the equipment they have is very impressive. Some is state-of-the-art! I have never seen Saturn so close. I have never seen Venus so close.”

Intergenerational Center
The County will soon begin a “public outreach campaign” on the intergenerational center. “We’ll go back out and engage the community and the major stakeholders and gather input,” said Enriquez.
Currently the recommendation is that the intergenerational center go at Star Valley Park, which has enough acreage to achieve many recreational priorities. Enriquez added, “Be looking for that information to come out on our platform ( and also through our social media.”
Desmond added that the community outreach and design of the intergenerational center will be funded at $1.5 million.
Community input will drive the scope of the it design, said Enriquez. “We have significant funding secured by Desmond to get through the public engagement portion. This will be followed by environmental and design review.”
Desmond added, “We’re still not sure of the footprint, or anything at this point. Once we decide or at least narrow it down, then we can find out what Valley Center wants.”

A Light at Mirar de Valle
Donald Chase, of the County Dept. of Public Works, was asked how the community might get a signal light at VC Road & Mirar de Valle sooner rather than later.
Valley Center Community Planning Group Chairman Dee Chavez Harmes, said they have worked closely with Donald Chase and Kevin Johnson on the light, under the Corridor Study & Community Plan Updates. She praised Chase and Johnston for “burning the midnight oil to make Valley Center happy.”
She said the community is concerned about the safety of turning left from the Park Circle development using Mirar de Valle.
Chase was joined by Richard Chin of DPW. They explained, “We can’t change any one component at one intersection without affecting the other intersections. We’re balancing those needs of putting your lights or traffic control devices or systems with the vision for the whole corridor.” He called this “an acute issue that we’re aware of—hopefully when we come back with these options we can talk about what the community vision is for that intersection.”
Chavez Harmes asked if it was the County’s responsibility to put in the light, or the shopping center or Park Circle development. “We’ve had mixed information on that.”
Chase said, “It’s really part of the entitlement for the permitting of whatever the new uses are environmental review and the traffic analysis of what that brings to the community.” Who to charge for the light won’t be known until the details of the development are approved.
Chin said the County is working the development to get the signal up as soon as possible.
Hunter McDonald, Desmond’s policy advisor for land use, added, “This is a real hot topic for us too and a big priority.” The light is conditioned on whether Park Circle or Liberty Bell shopping center reach a particular threshold first. “We’re trying to bring those developers to the table to find out some sort of reasonable agreement.”
The County could jump in and install the light with a reimbursement agreement with the developers. “I’m going to be submitting that we do this light sooner rather than later,” said Desmond. “I’m going to put it into the budget that we do it and get it done and then work it out with the development team. I can’t promise anything but I can tell you is we’re working on it. We hear you and I’m going to try to get the money up front if we can.”
Chief Joe Napier of the Valley Center Fire Protection District said they can provide accident statistics that have occurred at or near that intersection to help move the process forward.
Chavez Harmes’s group has asked for a traffic study for some time. “We had CHP giving traffic violations for people doing 100 up and down Valley Center Road and those tickets could not be brought to court because there hasn’t been a completed traffic study.”
Chase agreed that a technical traffic study will accompany the Corridor plan. “I think what you’re talking about is a specific speed study and to potentially explore the traffic speeds over time as intersection improvements get built and to continually monitor that.” He said such a study monitoring speeds would be a great idea to ensure that speed limits were set appropriately.
Noting that the Corridor Plan won’t be completed anytime soon, Chavez Harmes said, “A short term answer to getting our accidents reduced is by reducing speeds.”
Because VC Road is “a road in transition” whatever study is done won’t be accurate, said the supervisor. “The only reason I can think of that there hasn’t been one recently is because all the changes taking place there. We’ll try to nail it down as best we can and make it as safe as we can.” He pointed out that “traffic lights are traffic calming.”
McDonald said DPW is looking for additional radar speed signs that blink red and blue like police cars. “Fixed location radar signs work for only so long and then people don’t care about them anymore. We keep people on their toes by putting them at the bottom of the grade at different locations.”

Animal Welfare Coalition
The group also heard from Mari Guernsey of the Animal Welfare Coalition, which formed to work with the County Dept. of Animal Services. Its next meeting will be April 15, 2 p.m. at the VC library.
Guernsey said the County donated two chip scanners to local volunteers to help people get their animals returned. They are also working to get a mobile clinic to do low cost spay and neuters. “Our team is looking for volunteers to help drive animals to Carlsbad.” She added, “And to sign up as foster homes here to help with all Valley Center animals.”
Kelly Campbell, director of County Animal Services, also spoke on providing more convenient services to VC and the backcountry. She said, “it’s quite a hike” to retrieve a lost pet that has been taken there. “We operate two shelters; in Carlsbad and Bonita. San Diego Humane Society is a partner but we are not the same entity. So if you find an animal in Valley Center and take it to the San Diego Humane Society they may or may not be able to help you. Most likely they’re going to tell you that you need to drive that animal to us in Carlsbad.
Having a satellite location for Animal Services trucks “would be a huge help both for response times for our humane officers and their call responses but also for Valley Center residents and the needs you have in the community. Access to spay neuter is top of mind for us.”
The COVID pandemic caused many non-emergency vet services to be suspended, and spaying is not considered emergency. “So what we’re looking at now countywide are about 30,000 animals that should have been spayed or neutered but were not. The tidal wave of puppies and kittens that’s coming our way has already begun!”
She concluded, “We want to make sure that community has everything they need absent a physical facility.”

Why Butterfield wasn’t picked
Brian Albright of the County Parks Dept. explained why the review of the Butterfield Ranch property for an intergenerational center was trumped by Star Valley Park, which the County already owns.
“What it comes down to is a funding or a lack of funding issue,” said Albright. “If you were simply looking at Butterfield Ranch and there was an endless supply of funding we would jump at the opportunity to add it to the local park system.” However, the County has actually removed $50 million in projects from the parks capital improvement needs assessment. What remains “that is unspent in our capital budget is currently allocated for the design and environmental review for Star Valley Park for a conceptual design to determine what amenities are most important to the community and also for the intergenerational center and then to move from there into an official construction documents design so that we can complete that park.”
The department did create a long-term five year capital improvement needs assessment. “We created a project with no funding is attached to it for Butterfield Ranch.” This gives the opportunity a few years down the road to reexamine the county’s financial situation.
Desmond added, “We looked at this from many different angles to see if Butterfield would pencil out or not. If we were to purchase Butterfield Ranch it would be appraised at $5 million, which is about $84,000 and acre which is quite pricey.”
He was able to get $4.5 million to upgrade VC’s existing parks. “If we were to buy Butterfield now it would hold up the intergenerational center and hold up Star Valley. It would put things on hold for four or five years before we could get any other amenities in. Butterfield is a great spot but we’ve already got these other programs in the works.”
Desmond added “It might be easier. . . if there’s skin in the game from the community. It’s a lot easier to go after a grant. If we just pay market price for it it’s going to be hard.”
The County is competing for grants with other counties, he said.
Joaquin Aganza, who has urged the County to buy Butterfield added, “I would like to definitely keep the discussion going with the county. I recently was approached by the Sierra Club saying they’re highly interested in Butterfield.” He added that other entities have also shown interest. “I know we have very motivated owners to the property, who would be willing to discuss different approaches to the purchase—so let’s not take that off the table.”
Desmond responded, “We’ve kept it on the table. It’s those dollar signs that are the issue.”
Chavez Harmes added, “I know the community really wants to have this beautiful land. My question is what kind of a relationship or alliance could we form with the state?—because the state also needs to have parks.”
Albright said Valley Center is not considered a low income community to qualify for state funding. “I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture because it is a bit of a challenge with the metrics that the state uses for these type of funding allocations,” he said.
Aganza pointed out that the school district has 45% free and reduced lunches and 25% are English learners. “This represents a different demographic than the one that I feel is superficial.”

The rodeo
Desmond ended with this comment. “If you haven’t heard we couldn’t make the rodeo work this year. I apologize that we couldn’t find a way to do that. Unfortunately you gotta be careful what you ask for when you have the County take over your parks.”
He didn’t foresee this issue. “But the County is very bureaucratic. It’s very liability sensitive. When you’ve got a rodeo that’s basically run by a lot of volunteers and the volunteers have been doing it for years— and now you have this big bureaucratic entity come in—we didn’t have enough time to work everything out it.”
Desmond will be bringing a proposal to the Board of Supervisors to make it easier for homegrown events to use county facilities. “We’re going to try to get government out of the way as much as I can but still make it safe.” He added, “I’m going need some speakers when I bring this forward to my Board of to make sure that you can still have the community events that you have in the past.”

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