Weeds, Bugs, Birds, and Bikes

My favorite moment at tonight’s Community Services Commission meeting, was when one resident suggested that perhaps the now defunct Escondido Country Club golf course might be a better home for the BMX raceway than Kit Carson Park. I’m afraid I really did laugh out loud—getting some strange looks from the young BMX enthusiasts sitting nearby. Really, can you imagine the outcry from the affluent, retired Country Club folks at such a suggestion?

I tried to keep tabs on the speakers. Giving the benefit of a doubt to some speakers, who didn’t identify themselves as residents or non-residents of Escondido, and counting them as residents, there were 14 residents for the BMX raceway in Kit Carson, and 17 residents against the proposal. But one of those residents against was Grant Taylor, President of Friends of Kit Carson Park, representing some 500 residents who are against the raceway. There were 14 other speakers, non-resident BMX enthusiasts, all for the project.

I was surprised, as were most of the Commissioners, that the project’s sponsor, Vince McCurdy, made no presentation to the Commission. He was one of the non-resident speakers for the project. The City Staff didn’t have much to say about the project either. The argument for the project seemed to distill into what a great, family oriented sport BMX racing was, keeping people fit and active. Mr. McCurdy was not a very good model for the sport. Some of the non-resident speakers said they would be sure to spend money in Escondido when they came to the raceway, buying gas, food, and even lodging. Well, maybe, or maybe they’ll stop off in Rancho Bernardo or San Marcos on their way home.

The most often repeated argument against the raceway was that Kit Carson Park was not the place for it. The park was already heavily used, and the raceway would bring lights, noise and traffic. The strongest argument was that public parkland, belonging to the people of Escondido, should not “improved” with the building of the raceway to the tune of $113,500 city dollars, then be leased out to a commercial enterprise. As Roy Garrett so astutely pointed out, $60,000 of the $84,600 the American Bicycle Association (ABA) is to contribute to the “improvements” is really the lease amount. And, I found it interesting that McCurdy et.al. would consider a computer and a printer to be part of the $24,600 “improvement” expenses the ABA is contributing.

The clash of interests voiced in tonight’s meeting is a direct reflection of a basic divide in American culture. On the one hand you have the attitude of the ten-year old speaker in favor of the raceway, who dismissed the proposed site for the raceway as having “…nothing there but weeds and bugs.” On the other hand, Jeff Ebright, President of the Palomar Audubon Society, values the park as the home of a hundred different bird species, a home that would be degraded by the lights and noise of the proposed raceway. A man who can see the value of “weeds and bugs”.

In the end, there was no decision. Commissioner Bologna thanked all the speakers, and said he felt good arguments had been made on both sides. Commissioner Russell said that she really didn’t have enough information about other possible sites for the project, and wished to table the matter. Commissioner Simonson said that, really, all these little issues should be left up to the City Council, and the Commission should just recommend the project, and let the Council make the final decision. He moved to do so. His motion was not seconded. Russell then moved to table the matter, and her motion carried. This was followed by a discussion of when to meet again, January 23, is the next scheduled meeting of the Commission. The Commissioners all agreed that was not soon enough, so an earlier date will try to be arranged. So, stay tuned for “Weeds, Bugs, Birds, and Bikes”, Part II.

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