Amphitheater plan creates a bit of a stir

By Karen Brainard

One of three projects recommended for Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) funding has created a bit of a stir, with some people wondering what it is and others questioning whether it is shovel ready.

Horseback riders trot past the stage area of the amphitheater proposed for Ramona Community Park. The stage area is the flat spot between two boulders that sits about 700 feet at the bottom of a slope in the park. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

The amphitheater for Ramona Community Park is not a new project, said Art Thomsen, who  has worked as a volunteer for the park for over 40 years. Thomsen requested $27,500 of the $680,000 of PLDO funds to install fencing around  the 2-1/2 acres designated for the amphitheater and to sod and seed the flat stage area. The fencing, he said, is needed to keep off-roaders, whose circular tracks can be seen on the ground, from driving on the site.

Thomsen, as the project champion, presented his request to the Parks and Recreation Subcommittee of the Ramona Community Planning Group, which listed it as No. 1 on the eight-item priority list. The planning group at its Oct. 3 meeting recommended that PLDO funds be released for the project, based on information that it was near or is shovel  ready.

That is not the case, said the general manager of the  Ramona Municipal Water District, which owns Ramona Community Park. In a letter to Thomsen, RMWD General Manager David Barnum said all insurance and permitting requirements must be satisfied before the project moves forward.

According to Thomsen, the amphitheater, which is between the water district building and the baseball fields, was created by the Ramona Kiwanis Club, along with Ramonans John Sousa and Frank Kunkel, in the mid-1970s. As a park volunteer and grading contractor, Thomsen also was involved. The topography of the land lends itself to a natural amphitheater, so grading was minimal, he said. The top of the slope drops about 700 feet to a flat area between two boulders where a wood stage once sat, he said.

“So you sit up here and all the music is down there,” he noted, standing near the top of the slope.

The Kiwanis Club planted eucalyptus trees at the top, and electricity and irrigation lines were installed. The amphitheater was used for about three years for music and special events, said Thomsen, but  interest waned and over the decades the stage, which is no longer there, fell into disrepair.

A view from the proposed stage area shows the slope where visitors would sit to hear music or other special events. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

The park volunteer pointed behind the stage area to a rocky hill that has Indian artifacts and noted it is not within the amphitheater area and would not be disturbed.

Thomsen said he is working on the amphitheater again because he wants to see it finished and used for community events.

“My dad always said, if you start it, you gotta finish it,” he said, adding that “in the future it’s going to be used for things necessary in the community.”

He and Barnum pointed to an agreement in 2009 with the Ramona water district approving the concept of the amphitheater. Barnum said then general manager Ralph McIntosh approved the concept for the amphitheater with the conditions that all insurance and permitting requirements be satisfied, which has not been done. McIntosh is Thomsen’s nephew. In addition, Barnum said, a completed design that the district has requested has never been submitted

“It is critical that these conditions be met prior to your project moving forward,” Barnum stated in the letter.

Although RMWD owns the land, it leases it to the Ramona Parks and Recreation Association (RPRA). The lease agreement requires that RPRA obtain all necessary permit approvals and determine that there is not an impact to the park’s major use permit. If there is a deviation from the permit that was not satisfied, it could impact the entire park, Barnum said.

“It literally could cost RPRA hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Barnum.

Barnum also said the amphitheater stage area is in a floodplain.

“There may be additional requirements. It’s in a low part of the park,” he said.

For the health and safety of visitors, there may also be additional insurance requirements, according to the general manager. He said the district must meet  federal, state and local regulations.

Barnum said the water district is all for people using the park but doesn’t want to risk a snafu.

“You’re using public property and public money that could negatively impact that park…if you don’t do it right,” he said.

Thomsen said he met with Ricardo Soto, contracted engineer for RMWD, on Monday to discuss the amphitheater.

Although the planning group recommended funds be released for the project, San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department reviews it and decides if all requirements are met before sending it to the county supervisors for a vote on releasing PLDO funds. The other two projects that were recommended for PLDO funds are Ramona Girls Softball LED scoreboards and a tennis court conversion to basketball court in Collier Park for the Boys and Girls Club.

Related posts:

  1. Amphitheater, soccer, skateboard park top Ramona parks list
  2. RMWD considers financing options for pipeline
  3. David Barnum is Ramona water board’s choice as general manager
  4. Water Authority to give presentation on desal water at Tuesday’s RMWD meeting
  5. Recreation groups vie for park money

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Posted by Staff on Dec 3 2013. Filed under Featured Story, News, Ramona. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Comments for “Amphitheater plan creates a bit of a stir”


    I knew it. Everyone that attended that parks meeting rolled their eyes when we heard that an Amphitheather was Ramona's top priority? Look at the comments from the story that the Sentinel reported last month:

    What is RCPG doing?

    We were told this was a "Shovel Ready" project and now we find out that this thing has NO permits, No insurance and they have NOT even submitted a plan!

    WHAT DID RCPG APPROVE? What criteria made this project RCPG's top priority?

    Now that RCPG knows that this is not "Shovel Ready", it can no longer be their top priority. When will other groups be able to apply for the money?

    Ramona needs quality facilities for our kids, not a $27,000 fence and sod!

  2. Guest

    I played ball in that park, I coached ball in that park and now I am watching my kids play ball in that park as (almost) adults.

    In nearly 20 years of being involved in adult and youth sports I have never once heard one thing about an amptheather. This cannot really be the top priority for that park.

    Please consider Pony Baseball or Adult Softball or the Senior Center. They actually could put the money to good use.

    Would the fence allow horse traffic or mountain bikes? Are they no longer going to have concerts at the Rodeo Grounds? That is a great place for a concert. Fences are ugly and dangerous in an emergency. Is there another way to secure the amptheather? Maybe some nice bushes?

    I simply do not understand why anyone would think that this is a priority? Just my $.02. Thank you

  3. guest

    Again, as pointed out at the meeting, there is a great deal of doubt as to this project being shovel ready. Which is the new rule. Working with the water district on a project like this can be very time consuming and filled with red tape. With great respect to the folks trying to complete this project (and everyone else trying to do right by this community despite the naysayers at every turn) you need to step aside and let another project step up. If we all want to play by the rules set down now, this is the RIGHT thing to do. Don't make them come back, hear it again, and let more time pass. Just step aside and step back up when you have the required materials. Many others had to go get all of that, you should too.

    • Mike

      Based on that photo, looks like it is going to take A LOT OF SHOVELS, LOL LOL! That money can be better spent. People expect results when their money is spent so lets find something that can be done from start to finish.

  4. Jason

    I agree with all of the comments, but I am still a little confused.

    Does someone want to put up a fence in a flood plain which will block the trails and it is also an indian artifact site?

    Great Work Mr. Thompson! Pointing out the Indian artifacts alone will insure NOTHING will ever be built on that site.

    This project is officially dead and now the planning people just need to do the right thing and reallocate the money to a project that really needs it and will benefit our kids.

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