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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Community Park / Surrounding Issues – By Mary Harris

Letter to the Editor – Submitted By Mary Harris

I was re-reading Lori Bledsoe’s September 2017 article in the Alpine Sun about Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) funds and how Joan MacQueen Middle School (JMMS) wants to use, the now $950,000, in the fund for athletic field upgrades. Not long ago, George Barnett, of the Alpine Community Planning Group (ACPG), wrote in the Alpine Community Network (ACN), that he envisioned a 9 Acre Sports Complex at JMMS. Lori’s article was thorough, and included that many Alpiner’s wanted a community park built here with the PLDO money. She also covered the land offer made by El Cajon developer, Daryl Priest, and the (alleged) problems that the County found with it.

Fast forward nearly four months as we approach the new year. Things have changed in the last few months that have put Alpine in the running, at long last, to FINALLY obtain a County Park! I have made it to most of the meetings regarding the issues and have learned that, according to Bill Saumier of the San Diego County Parks and Recreation, that “the floodgates are open”, meaning that millions of dollars are now available for building new county parks.

The issue that Lori Bledsoe brought up in her article concerning a problem with the county not paying for maintenance of a park once it has been built, has been resolved. As of June 2017, the county will pay for park maintenance.

Meanwhile, members of our community have had an opportunity to express themselves about these issues through a Surveymonkey survey created by a concerned resident. Over 300 locals have taken the survey to date. Questions are asked of Alpiner’s as to what THEY want to see as far as amenities in a community park, and how THEY would like to see the PLDO funds used. The overwhelming majority are responding that they want the PLDO money used for a community park vs. a sports complex or field upgrades at JMMS.

The most important amenities sought by locals? A dog park and plenty of shaded areas.

Alpiners have been misled by the ACPG to believe that there is no land available in Alpine suitable for a county park. Not so! We have also been led to believe that the County Board of Representatives has already given the green light for either the athletic field upgrades at JMMS, or the “Sports Complex” idea outlined in articles by ACPG member, George Barnett. While the ACPG apparently did meet with Diane Jacob, our County Supervisor, NO DECISION has been made regarding proposed projects at JMMS.

I have criticized the ACPG and the Alpine Unified School District (AUSD), as well as the ACPG Parks and Trails Subcommittee for not doing a good enough job announcing their meetings, not announcing their meetings early enough, and not providing basic signage to facilitate people in being able to locate the meetings.

While the AUSD and the ACPG are good with spending approximately $5,000 to make a preliminary plan for their proposed project, they can’t part with less than $100 to provide signage or flyers. What would it take to make a few flyers and post them (more than a couple of days prior to the meeting), or place a basic sign or two ?

I have also criticized the above mentioned boards for not doing enough to connect with the community they represent. How can they represent Alpine if they don’t connect with the people of Alpine? I call it Community Outreach. This is essential in order that not just a few (who happen to sit on the boards) voice their opinions, but that the community itself, rich or poor, landowners or not, Americans with white,brown, black,or any other variation of skin color, highly educated or not, and of any religious background, and of any age whereby they be old enough to vote, may be actively welcomed to participate.

When I talk to people, I often hear that they don’t think that it matters what they think because those on the boards always get what they want anyway, so what’s the point ? This leads to apathy, and undermines community spirit.

And when a board member states that the public are “warmly welcomed” at ACPG meetings, they didn’t say, unless they disagree with the board, then they may be “welcomed” as I feel was, with rudeness, being talked down to, and with intimidating physical gestures.

It’s nothing new to me, and other single women may agree, to be treated with disrespect. A woman who may be a widow, divorced, having no grown children nearby, or other family who may care what happens to her, I feel are seen as prey by predators. The reputations of some planning group members, have become tarnished in my eyes, after I feel that I have been repeatedly treated like someone that doesn’t matter.

I lived here in the mid 70’s. I helped raise my nephew here. I became a single parent in the 80’s, and moved to where the quality schools were located. I coached and supported my daughter, from her preschool years to college, and attended her graduation, where she earned her Master’s Degree. I am retirement age now, and volunteer teaching the ESL program. I attend adult school, participate in a writer’s group, and help my “older than me” neighbors who are without family and/or money.

When the ACPG and the AUSD and Alpine Education Foundation (AEF) said they all voted unanimously to prioritize the spending of the PLDO money on sports related projects at JMMS,instead of making a community park for all to use, I asked what made sports agendas the priority when there are so many other needs of students being neglected? I didn’t get an answer.

Mainly, and I finish with this, Alpine is LONG overdue in getting a community park. A recreational facility at JMMS is designed for the school community, not the community at large. The school can find its own funding for sports projects and leave the PLDO money alone. It was originally designated for a park. Just because the PLDO fund was dipped into before, approx. ($400,000) for sports fields at JMMS, does not mean that it should be permitted again.

Concerned Resident – Mary Harris


16 comments to LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Community Park / Surrounding Issues – By Mary Harris

  • Gael Bergstedt

    great idea

  • Mary Harris

    thank you for all your great comments

  • Barbara Murray

    Attention all Alpine residents! There will be a meeting of the Alpine Community Planning Group this Thursday at 6PM at the Community Center.. Your opinion matters , but you need to be present to let the members of the ACPG know how you feel about the issues concerning all of Alpine. Remember there is power in numbers and you can override the will of a few to benefit the will of many.

  • Harris is community minded and is looking forward to what could become a legacy for future generations.That she values parks is clear. Because of the politics involved in creating a park worthy of being called a legacy
    (vs. the pocket parks located on school sites),and the very small park behind the library, it is a formidable goal.
    That the PLDO fund be prioritized for anything besides what it was originally des
    ignated for should be taken seriously, as it could weaken the argument for a park. There is no need to twist Harris’s words to mean anything but what she
    intended. Her heart is in the right place. I admire this and support her cause.

  • Mr. William John Barck

    I’m not a current resident of Alpine. My name is Wm. John Barck, and I have been a resident of San Diego County for over 40 years. Here’s my take on this. I love Alpine; when I was a boy, Alpine had a park of sorts, with giant, life-size dinosaurs made of concrete. Every time we passed through Alpine, I begged my folks to take us (I have a brother and a sister)to that magical place, but they never would. So, unless I need fuel or groceries for a trip through Alpine, why would I spend any time or money there? Alpine has never been a destination, in my thinking, just someplace to pass through on the way to the mountains, or the desert, or points east. Lakeside has Lindo Lake, and San Diego has great parks, but would I go visit a middle school athletic complex? Not at all likely. But a nice park, I would certainly enjoy visiting. It would be a destination in Alpine, that I would definitely want to visit. Especially if it had a few dinosaurs for kids to enjoy, but seriously now, Alpine is an outlying community that has little to recommend stopping in for, besides the aforementioned necessities. The people who govern there don’t seem at all responsive to the community they claim to represent, and appear to suffer from the same elitist, arrogant attitudes that make us regular citizens loathe those who run for office everywhere, but in our nation’s capitol in particular. Listen up, you who wield influence and political power. What happened nationwide can well happen to you, if you don’t watch what you do and say. Sometimes the worst thing that can happen is for you to accomplish what you think ought to happen, and end up alienating your base of support, sort of like sawing off the limb you are perched on.
    That is my viewpoint, for all it is worth.

  • Barbara Murray

    This is a response to previous Letters To The Editor.
    I agree with Mary Harris about the ACPG and the AUSD. They are interchangable, what one group wants the wants,the other one wants the same. Their ultimate goal is to usurp the PLDO funds meant to create a park for all residents of Alpine can use. Instead they want the funds to create a “Sports Complex” at the JMMS. This will preclude the residents of Alpine from almost all use of this facility. BTW do you know that once again the AUSD was denied an appeal this time from the State Board of Education for a High School here in Alpine? When will the AUSD stop wasting taxpayers money and spend the money on a quality education for the students of Alpine?
    Despite what Mr. Barnett said in his response posting names and such of the members of the ACPG and posting notices of meetings on various sites is not community outreach. If they really wanted to know what the residents of Alpine REALLY want they would be surprised or even angry about what they may hear as it probably doesn’t suit their agenda. They are not very welcoming at their meetings if you have a different opinion from theirs. Surveys done by a group called “A Park 4 Alpine”of concerned Alpine citizens indicate that a majority of residents want a park that includes shade, picnic areas, off leash dog park,and a “fitness track”,just to mention a few, but NO sports fields!!! “A Park 4 Alpine” may be a small group, but we will be heard! To paraphrase an old song by Helen Reddy”hear us ROAR!

  • C. Bonsignore

    Continuing on from my last response to Mary Harris’s letter: The AUSD recently lost lost their third consecutive appeal to GUHSD. The Court stipulated AUSD pay GUHSD’s costs ($3million). AUSD is in danger of going bankrupt. With an annual budget of $17 million minus the $1 million already spent on legal fees and the $3 million more owed, this is a quarter of AUSD’s annual budget lost in losing legal fights. And yet AUSD has the audacity to propose the construction of a grandiose “sports complex”? The Superintendent and School Board Members are totally out of touch with the basics of business administration and fiscal responsibility.
    C. Bonsignore

  • C. Bonsignore

    Mary Harris points out that the Alpine Community at large is being swindled out of a Community Park with shade trees, restrooms, off leash dog park, barbeques, etc… for young and old to enjoy every day from sunrise to sunset, by the Alpine Union School District, (AUSD) because the AUSD intends to petition the County of San Diego for the PLDO funds (Park Lands Dedicated Ordinance), (approx $950,000) to refurbish the middle school fields.
    This PLDO fund heist was initiated by George Barnett of the Alpine Educational Fund (AEF) and of the Alpine Community Planning Group (ACPG), at the ‘Special Meeting’ of July 27, 2017 at the Alpine Community Center, where he presented his plan to take the fields “out of the middle ages and into the 21st century”…and then he announced this undertaking “would not cost the taxpayer one dime”…”the best thing to happen in Alpine in 100 years.”
    On November 9, 2017, a small meeting was held at JMMS to seek input on the “Sports Complex” concept, and about 20 people attended. The show stopper was the teacher who stood up and proclaimed that instead of spending several million dollars on the fields, the teachers should be given a pay raise. The emotional teacher said that between the low salary and high health care costs, it is extremely difficult to live and support a family.
    The AUSD has spent over a million dollars recently in an ongoing lawsuit with GUHSD and looks to be mismanaging funds. Teachers and academic excellence are the core of a quality education and must take priority over extra curricular activities.
    C. B.

  • Mary Harris

    At an Alpine Community Planning Group meeting that I attended, the Chair,Travis Lyon, announced that their group unanimously voted to prioritize the Park Land Designated Ordinance (PLDO) monies for the sports related projects at Joan MacQueen Middle School that I spoke of in my letter. This fund has historically been designated for the building of a new Community Park. Some planning group members have said that for as long as twenty years Alpine has been trying to get a full size park built here but has hit road blocks time and again. The County of San Diego has not taken Alpine seriously enough. It came as a shock to me that the ACPG, when it voted to prioritize the fund towards sports, thus permanently diverting it away from its original designation (a park), basically gave up on getting our park built. The Alpine School District is a separate entity with its own wants and needs. I do not have any wish to divert the school from obtaining what it seeks,only to have the school obtain its own funding.
    I see that the planning group, AEF, and AUSD,do make the minimum effort required to give notice of their meetings. I am asking that they do more than just the minimum effort by spending a modest amount of money to ad flyers and basic signage in an effort to increase attendance . The last subcommittee meeting of the ACPG ( Parks and Trails), had exactly 0 attendance with the exception of San Diego County Parks and Recreation employee, Bill Saumier, myself, and my friend. Other meetings have had very poor attendance, as well. In order to represent our community, Community Outreach is a necessity. Again, these groups do the minimum that is required of them, which is not working very well.This is why I
    suggest that they stretch themselves to do a little more. Just as our teachers have asked us to do more than what is required to get a grade of “C”, and work towards at least a “B”.

  • George Barnett

    Ms. Harris seems to raise two issues:

    One: she doesn’t want fees paid by developers in Alpine to be used for refurbishing our middle schools sports fields. That personal opinion is fine. Ms. Harris attended Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s “Coffee with Constituents” last fall, and she made that same point. Supervisor Jacob quite clearly answered that the playing fields project was a worthy one that the community deserved and needed, and that she would likely support once there were final designs to review. Supervisor Jacob directly responded to Ms. Harris that moving forward with the playing fields project would in no way divert the County from a continuing aggressive search and finding funding resources for additional parkland for Alpine.

    Two: Ms. Harris believes not enough effort is made to inform Alpiners of meetings of statutory agencies. Every such meeting is “publicly noticed” by California law. What does that mean? Planning Group and School District board meetings are posted in our town’s two newspapers, in this forum – the Alpine Community Network, on County and school district websites, and posted publicly as hard copy. All of the Planning Group’s Subcommittees’ meetings are similarly noticed. The Planing group notices include contact details of every member, and the public is invited to contact any of us, at any time, about anything related to land use planning. At the Planning Groups Parks & Recreation Subcommittee meetings, the Chairman has passed-out his personal phone number and invited any and all to call him personally about meeting schedules and so on. One nay-sayer responded by saying at their home they did not read newspapers, did not have internet, and did not have a telephone.

    Please know, folks, that by a Board Resolution way back last August, the Alpine Union School District took the Lead Agency status of this project. That means our school district “owns” the project lock, stock and barrel, and has for the past near six months. Just last Wednesday, our school district held a public board meeting at which an update status report of the JMMS project was presented. There were no dissenters. The County just ten days ago conducted a public noticed Alpine-wide workshop on the update of our Community Plan, and at which parkland needs were an expressed and important feature. There were two dissenters by my informal count. At the Parks & Recreation Subcommittee meeting at which the JMMS project master plan was discussed and voted on in the affirmative, there was one dissenter. At the main Planning group meeting at which the JMMS project was discussed and voted on in the affirmative, there were three dissenters. In all those meetings, the names of the dissenters were basically the same people dissenting on this forum.

    There seems a message in this.

  • George Barnett

    Lou Russo asked that very question of the County Counsel some years back and he received a detailed written reply. Ask him for a copy of that letter.

  • Did you get a weird error message when you did it? We were having issues with our server after we had done some updated to the website and it wasnt letting peoples comments come through to me. We just got it fixed yesterday and I approved all the comments that I saw.. I didnt see any from you until this one?

  • C. Bonsignore

    I submitted a comment to mary harris’s letter yesterday morning before Caity Yasui, yet my comment has not been posted. Whats the problem?

  • Mary Harris

    Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. Some have wondered if there is a conflict of interest,
    regarding individuals who sit on multiple boards and use their influence to sway others to support their agendas. I am open to having a conversation with you.

  • Caity Yaussi

    I am the Vice President of the Alpine Education Foundation. The letter notes that: “When the ACPG and the AUSD and Alpine Education Foundation (AEF) said they all voted unanimously to prioritize the spending of the PLDO money on sports related projects at JMMS…” This is incorrect. AEF has no involvement with this proposed project, other than to support any idea that enhances the AUSD students’ PE curriculum. We are not funding this effort nor do we have any voting rights. We are not decision makers in this process. We have a board member who was involved in the initial planning concepts. This was done in her capacity as a helpful citizen and not as an AEF board member. Finally, George Barnett is an AEF board member, but his involvement with the field proposal is in his capacity as a planning group member.

  • mary

    Subscribing to comments

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