Future of fireworks uncertain in Ramona

By Maureen Robertson

LAST YEAR FOR RAMONA FIREWORKS?—At a recent Rotary Fireworks Committee, chairman Pete Schiff commented about a court ruling that fireworks over water must have an environmental review, which may end Ramona’s annual July 4 sky show. Between vernal pools and the creek running through school district land where the fireworks are held, the fire marshal is pretty certain Rotary will need an environmental impact report for next year’s show, Schiff reported, adding that “everyone gets a waiver (from the court) this year.”

Raising $24,000 for the 19th annual event this year is an effort. Having to tack on another $8,000 to $12,000 for an environmental report could mean the community’s last July 4 sky show will be Monday evening. On a positive note, someone in the community with the credentials to do the environmental report may be willing to do the report for free, said Don Scott, the fireworks committee’s safety and security chairman. Schiff agrees that is a possibility.

VANDALS ARE BACK—Stop by the community park at 1710 Montecito Road and see what’s been spraypainted on the children’s play equipment, the walls, the Teen Center building, the basketball hoops — all this two years after the Ramona Rotary Club, assisted by Ramona High graduate (now professional painter, husband and father) Jack Riordan and Ramona High’s Interact Club (high school version of Rotary), spent Rotarians at Work Day in April 2009 power washing and scrubbing off all the graffiti, weeding, picking up trash and doing other general cleanup to encourage residents to enjoy the park.

Club members have returned once a month to trim tree branches for better visibility into the park, to weed, to pick up trash and to continue general cleanup. The club partnered with the Ramona Unified School District to install two bright and well-protected lights for safety and to “shine a light” on vandals. Rotary donated $2,000 to the project, which also included repairing lights on the roof. Ed Anderson, head of maintenance for the school district, ordered the materials and coordinated the work, and RUSD employees got the job done.

The park is on school district property that is former home of Ramona Community School, now at 1010 Ramona Street. When the school was there, RUSD applied for and received Park Land Development Ordinance (PLDO) money from the county, making it a community park when school was not in session.

Ramonans watched the property gradually fall to vandals and vagrants once the school moved. The former classrooms were empty and the area became a breeding ground for unpleasant activities. The Fire Recovery Center set up shop there after the Witch fire in 2007. Thugs even broke into the center. Bonnie Fry, former center director, and then sheriff’s Crime Prevention Officer Kelly Marline joined forces to deter vandalism, but the graffiti bothered Rotarians, who wanted to see children playing on the playground and residents using the basketball court, baseball field and what could be a soccer field.

About the time the fire recovery center closed, several Ramonans were meeting and talking about opening a teen center, a place middle and high school students could come after school and just hang out, do homework, play music, shoot hoops — a healthy place for teens to be teens.

The former classrooms and multipurpose room became the Arriba Teen Center, and Ramona Teachers Association President Donna Braye-Romero got involved. Through her efforts, a grant from the California Teachers Association paid for new computers for the center. There was talk of a skateboard park, one area was turned into a rehearsal room for bands, donations of furniture, TVs, video games, Wii games and snacks arrived, and young people were invited to regular movie nights and band nights as well as enjoy the center three afternoons a week. A recent donation of exercise equipment has added another dimension to the youth center.

A visit to the park Saturday morning was disappointing. Graffiti was everywhere. Kim Lasley, teen center director and head volunteer, said it started the week school closed. She contacted the sheriff’s department and was told not to paint over it until photos were taken with the sheriff’s graffiti tracker camera.

Last week also saw graffiti in San Diego Country Estates. There didn’t seem to be one theme — some racial slurs, some profanity, some religious references and some random markings.

Henry Llopis arrived home from work last Tuesday to see an array of graffiti on a fence in the 25200 block of Poderio Drive. The fence faces Ramona Oaks Road, so all of the vulgarities were visible. Llopis was good-natured about the fact that he was working after work, calling it his “therapeutic time.”



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