Encinitas Community Park… Finally!

Everybody loves a park, right?

Right?

I asked twice because apparently some people do not. How else can you explain why it took 14 years to turn a piece of prime Encinitas real estate, west of Interstate 5 mind you, into the new park that finally will open on Saturday January 10th?

Fourteen years of lawsuits, name calling, motive questioning, opposition, picayune objections, moving goal posts, Coastal Commission hearings, and on and on and on.

Not for a factory. Not for a prison. Not for a high density housing development. For a park.

A place where people can watch the grass grow and maybe kick a ball or watch children run around and play.

Nobody got rich on this project.

Still, it took 14 years.

Earlier this week in what the restaurant people call a soft opening, city officials in Encinitas took down the fences and the word spread like wildfire that the park was open. Or, in the words of 14 years of invective, that which would “destroy Encinitas as we know it” per the park opponents was about to become a reality.

But none of that was apparent this day. In fact, several of the opponents to the park were there. Enjoying it just as much as anyone else.

I could not help but be reminded of all the great things in North County that were created by people of vision. And how many were almost killed in the cradle.

The Del Mar Plaza, for example. Today, it is the go-to place for great company, great views and great food for people all over the region. It was even a model for Horton Plaza. But at the time, project opponents assured us its construction would usher in the new apocalypse.

For what reasons? You name it, this new center of commerce and community was about to create them all. Also, the Encinitas Home Depot and Encinitas Ranch Town Center, which went to a vote of the people, and upon the voters approval was sued, but the lawsuit failed and the project prevailed. And we have one of the most successful shopping enters in San Diego County.

How about sand on the beach? Encinitas has great beaches enjoyed by all. Occasionally they lose their sand and all that is left are acres and acres of cobblestones. Replacing the sand should be a no-brainer, right?

Right?

Wrong: That also takes years and years of hearings and scientific study, and sometimes lawsuits,dire warnings and fairy tales about how we simply cannot allow sand on the beach because that would end Encinitas as we know it and kill some valuable species of something or other. But of course it never does.…

There are dozens more. After the projects are up for a while, the former opponents are often found enjoying the very projects they worked so hard to stop.

One of my favorites was a guy called “Johnny Q.” He came up to me and said “I walked neighborhoods and put flyers on parked cars to oppose the Encinitas Town Center and Home Depot. Thank god my side lost”! Priceless.

In Encinitas, the newest city council member (Catherine S. Blakespear) lives in the Cardiff community of the city of Encinitas near where this park is located, and her mother, Ms. Tricia Smith, was a major opponent of the project all the way through the process.

No doubt the newly elected city councilwoman — recently appointed as deputy mayor, Ms. Blakespear — will allow her name to be on the dedication plaque and will stand proudly with the rest of the elected officials mugging for the camera’s and proclaiming what a crown jewel this park is for all of Encinitas.

Of course, things could become awkward for her at work in Del Mar where she and her park-opposing mom work together in a law office.

Did I mention the skateboarders? Lots and lots of skateboarders are enjoying the dedicated skate feature designed with the help of some of the local skate legends. Did you know that Encinitas is Tony Hawk country?

That’s right, Tony Hawk: You heard me right the first time. Go check your kids Xbox game collection to see if there’s one with his name on it. There probably is.

On Saturday, Jan. 10 the city of Encinitas will hold a ceremony to “cut the ribbon” on the new “Encinitas Community Park” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be snacks!

Some facts:

The Encinitas Community Park (AKA The Hall Property) is located just west of Interstate 5 at Santa Fe Drive in Encinitas. It covers 43 acres, and has a dedicated skate element, a 2-acre dog park, play structures, baseball and T-ball diamonds, and soccer fields that overlay the outfields on the baseball fields. Some BBQ’s, restrooms, tables, and ample parking are also there along with a dry creek and grassy kite flying / picnic areas.

It’s a beautiful park and it in fact is the crown jewel in the Encinitas area, and it’s free to the public. Join the city on celebrating this long sought amenity being here for us and all future generations of North County folks to benefit from.

Costs? Land — about $20 million.

Construction? about $20 million.

Lawsuits and E.I.R.? More than a million dollars, and many years of delay.

The fact that a generation of Encinitas kids have been denied this great park to play in? Tragic.

The fact that the final project has been built to benefit the people of and future generations of Encinitas residents? Priceless!

Jerome Stocks is an Encinitas resident and former Encinitas City Council member and mayor.

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