Recreation groups vie for park money

David Williams, vice president of Ramona Soccer League, tells the planning group that the league has contributed a lot of its own funds to the soccer fields and equipment. Sentinel photos/Karen Brainard
David Williams, vice president of Ramona Soccer League, tells the planning group that the league has contributed a lot of its own funds to the soccer fields and equipment. Sentinel photos/Karen Brainard

By Karen Brainard

The $680,000 of Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) money earmarked for Ramona has various sports- and recreation-oriented organizations clamoring for the funds.

After hearing from several members of those organizations who sought to justify their needs for project funds, the Ramona Community Planning Group voted Nov. 7 to recommend the county release a portion of PLDO funds for three projects, based on the recommendation of the Parks and Recreation Subcommittee.

The three projects on the  seven-item Ramona PLDO Priority list proposed to receive funds are:

•Project 1: Amphitheater fencing, sod and seed. The amphitheater is in Ramona Community Park. Fencing is needed to keep off-roaders away from the area, and sod and seeding will allow the bowl area to be developed for family use. Funds requested: $27,500.

•Project 4: Girls Softball LED scoreboard. This project will focus on the purchase and installation of electric LED scoreboards on five fields. Funds requested: $40,000.

•Project 5: Girls and Boys Club tennis court conversion to basketball court. The project would convert one of two tennis courts at Collier Park to a basketball court, available to the public when not in basketball league use. Funds requested: $70,620.

RCPG member Jim Cooper, who is chair of the Parks and Rec Subcommittee, said the three projects are “essentially funded and ready to go.”

“We have very carefully marshalled the seven projects through the subcommittee,” said Cooper.

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Jim Cooper, chair of the planning group’s Parks and Recreation Subcommittee, explains why some priority list projects are not recommended for PLDO funding at this time. Sentinel photos/Karen Brainard

He said the subcommittee believed the three projects were at or near shovel-ready completion and should receive funds now. The subcommittee is working with San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department, which reviews the projects and has the ultimate say. Cooper said he receives weekly status reports from the county.

Representatives for the priority list’s No. 2 project, Ramona soccer field expansion, and the No. 3 project, skateboard park development, spoke on the merits of their projects to emphasize their need for funding.

Concerned that funding could go toward one project, Becky Ocampo said Ramona Soccer League expects to have three more competitive teams next year with another 50 to 60 children and needs more field space. RSL is requesting $150,000 for the estimated $300,000 project.

Cooper, however, said that based on comments from the county, including that there is no design for the new field and information is missing, funds cannot be recommended at this time.

Nancy Roy, champion for the skateboard park, said kids have been waiting for years for such a facility, and many are now adults with children of their own “and still no skate park.” The skate park committee is requesting $90,000 for design. Construction is estimated at about $700,00.

“As the skate park champion for this project, I would like to make a recommendation that the current PLDO funds be held for construction of the skate park before any other projects lower on the PLDO priority list are funded,” said Roy. “I know this would be a very bold and courageous move by the Ramona Community Planning Group because I know other groups are waiting to fund their own project, too, but this project is so long overdue for our children and we may never have this opportunity again to fund this priority for a very long time.”

Cooper said the subcommittee considered funding for the  skateboard park but it was considered inappropriate at this time due to the county’s status report.

“There was considerable effort still needed for the skateboard park to bring it near a fully-funded picture,” he said. “That does not mean that isn’t a top priority for the subcommittee and it should not mean it isn’t top priority for this group.”

Planning group chair Jim Piva, who is also on the San Diego Country Estates Association Board, said a skateboard park for the Estates was in the works with a completed top-of-the-line design but the site for it can no longer be used due to new groundwater regulations. The designer/engineer is willing to donate the design and even expand it for the community skate park, he said. That could save the skate park committee about $90,000, he said.

Also speaking on behalf of a priority list project was Dean Welch, champion of the No. 6 Ramona High  School baseball/softball fencing and dugouts, with $100,000 requested.

Welch said the average high school dugout is 50 feet from home plate, but Ramona High’s is 35 feet.

“This is unbelievably unsafe,” he said.

RCPG members noted that projects 1, 4 and 5 only amount to about $140,000 and there will still be funds left.

“We want to be good stewards with this money,” said Piva, suggesting project champions also look for buy-ins and not just rely on PLDO funds.

“I think there should be enough to give everybody,” he said.

RCPG member Kevin Wallace was the only one opposing the recommended funding for projects 1, 4, and 5, saying the community needs a skate park. Members Barbara Jensen, Dennis Sprong and Torry Brean were absent.

If the three projects receive their funding, the other projects move up on the priority list. An eighth project was added to the list at the meeting — new playground equipment for Barnett Elementary School.

   
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