Weeds, Bugs, Birds, and Bikes, Part II

The general tenor of last night’s meeting of the Community Services Commission to consider the BMX raceway proposal in Kit Carson Park, was pretty much the polar opposite of the November 13, 2013 meeting on that issue. Rick Moore has written a very good article on last night’s meeting, http://www.escondidodems.org/wp/2013/12/09/commission-votes-for-bmx-but-not-in-kit-carson-park/#more-12331. There is a briefer description by David Garrick in the U T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/dec/10/escondido-bmx-track-setback-kit-carson/. By my count, there were 49 speakers, 33 against and 16 (including three small boys) for the proposal—an inverse of the two-to-one ratio of the pro- to anti-speakers at the November meeting.

The Commission did get a presentation of sorts by Vince McCurdy for the proposal. He did have a Power Point, which included overhead photos of other BMX raceways, but the audience was left in the dark as to which raceway was which. McCurdy had dressed for the occasion, shorts and tee shirt, which did adequately cover his rather large torso. McCurdy dutifully showed his slides, but failed to elaborate on the narration of each slide. As the slides were difficult to read, this made most of presentation incomprehensible. Under questioning by the Commission, he clarified that the $60,000 lease was $60,000 over ten years—so for the City’s investment $113,500 to build the raceway, it will receive a whopping $500 a month. McCurdy clarified this amount without blushing. One comment of McCurdy’s, that did get a reaction from the audience, was that Mountain View Park was not a good location for a raceway because it was near two housing tracts. Didn’t seem to occur to McCurdy that the majority of the audience, who live in housing tracts around Kit Carson Park, might take exception to that remark. McCurdy did emphasize that the four acres he wished the City of Escondido to build a BMX raceway upon were home to, quoting a ten-year old at the November meeting, “nothing but weeds and bugs.”

Elyse Sankey Watson, daughter of Iris Sankey (as in Iris Sankey Magical Garden Trail in Kit Carson Park,) spoke against the proposal. Iris Sankey’s goal had been to keep the L.R. Green donation of land to the City of Escondido an open park to enjoy the outdoors. Another speaker against the proposal noted that the L.R. Green donation required a vote of Escondido citizens to use Kit Carson Park for purposes other public recreation, so the City of Escondido had to get voter approval to turn part of Kit Carson Park into North County Fair Mall in the early 1980’s. The speaker wondered why this proposal and the previous proposal for a water park could be approved by the City Council alone. That question would seem to depend upon what is meant by public recreation—does it include a commercial operation such as a water park or BMX raceway?

The Commissioners timidly voted to recommend that the City Council build a BMX raceway, but, definitely, not build it in Kit Carson Park.

I suggested to the Commission that the best way to honor the wishes of L.R. Green would be to plant trees in the barren area proposed for the raceway. In early October of 2001, I spent an enchanting week on the Turkish Aegean coast – a land similar to San Diego County in climate and topography. One highlight of that trip was a visit to the Dilek Yarmadas National Park. The park is on a peninsula south of the resort town of Kusadasi and north of the Meander River delta. Here, the relatively barren hillsides of olive groves and overgrazed pasture give way to a rich native ecosystem. The fauna is reported to include wild boar, foxes, jackals, striped hyenas, martens, porcupines, lynxes, badger, bears and leopards! I saw none of these rare creatures, but I did see, touch, and smell the wonderful flora. The native olive trees grow compatibly with carob, cypress, oriental plane, sweet bay laurel, stone pine and Judas trees (to name but a few). This was the landscape encountered by the ancient Greeks who founded the nearby port cities of Priene and Miletus – ports long since left high and dry by the silt of the Meander River.

I felt at home in this park. It was like walking through parts of San Diego County. Dilek Yarmadas National Park gives a tantalizing taste of what these Turkish Aegean hills were like before two thousand plus years of human exploitation. The barren hillsides of the Turkish Aegean cannot be brought back to their pre-Ionic condition. In the June 9, 2012 edition of Nature magazine, an article, “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere”, noted that:

“Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale ‘tipping point’ highlights the need to improve biological forecasting by detecting early warning sign of critical transitions on global as well as local scales, and by detecting feedbacks that promote such transitions. It is also necessary to address root causes of how humans are forcing biological changes.”

Penny Hernandez, Secretary of the Palomar Audubon Society, said that birders used to see Kestrels, Western Meadowlarks, Barn Owls, Bell’s Vireos, and California Gnatcatchers in Kit Carson Park, but see them no more. Their disappearance is an early warning sign. If we continue to bulldoze habitat to build houses, stores, factories—whatever, we can push San Diego County past a tipping point and make our hills as devoid of species as the hills of the Turkish Aegean. Rather than tearing up more habitat we should endeavor to replace it. Plant native species on those four acres of “weeds and bugs”. With a bit of luck, birds may return.

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