CARLSBAD — The lush, green and relatively flat grass at Carlsbad’s Cadencia Park is a magnet for kids looking for a place to play pickup football on the warm summer evenings.
But recent complaints by a group of neighbors on the bluff above the park led to Carlsbad parks and recreation staffers removing a group of kids playing flag football from the park, which caused an outcry from a group of parents.
Carlsbad officials are owning up to the mistake, which they said was caused by incorrect information by the complainants, which led staff members to believe the kids were part of a sports league. The city doesn’t allow sports organizations to use Cadencia for practice or other organized activities.
“We won’t be kicking anyone out in the future,” Carlsbad Parks and Recreation Director Mike Pacheco said. “They (the parents) were definitely in the right.”
One parent expressed relief that the city acknowledged the mistake.
“I am thrilled,” said Erin Duxbury, whose children were involved in the incident that led to the city apologizing over their forced removal. “And that’s how it should have been all along. It is unfortunate that one neighborhood bully was able to run the show as long as they were allowed to.”
Duxbury is referring to the parent or parents who had been lodging complaints — as early as last year — with city parks staff about the kids playing football.
The park has a sign in front that clearly states that no organized sports teams are allowed to practice on the field.
But, Duxbury said, the group of boys aren’t part of a team or a league. They just came to play pickup flag football.
The most recent incidents occurred July 12 and July 13, when Carlsbad parks staff approached the group of boys, ages 4 to 11, and told them that neighbors on Carpa Court had called and complained that a team was practicing on the field.
The staff members told one of the parents present that neighbors had called nine times in a half hour complaining about the activity, and that the boys would have to leave the park.
The situation boiled over on July 13, when the staff member told the parents present that the boys would have to leave or they would call the police.
“Some children got scared,” Duxbury said in an email to The Coast News. “He (the staff member) stated he could not leave the park until all children were removed.”
Duxbury said that a parent reached out to Pacheco last year and he sent a letter that the parents believed would clarify things with staff. However, that wasn’t the case, she said.
“We and our children are being harassed and chased away by a specific set of neighborhood people who are just plain bullies,” Duxbury said. “These neighbors … do not stop at pestering the Carlsbad Parks and Recreation team, and unfortunately the Parks and Recreation team have no choice but to respond. But what the City of Carlsbad DOES have is the choice to follow the rules that they themselves set up for the park. The complaining neighbors are not the ones who should be backed up — the parents and children who are using the park in a manner in which it was intended to be used should be getting the support.”
Pacheco, reached July18, said that last week’s incidents were caused by misinformation given to staff from complaining neighbors. As it pertains to staff’s response, Pacheco said that a part-time staff member was simply trying to follow the rules as he understood them.
“We rely on the neighbors, and staff thought it was something that it wasn’t,” Pacheco said. “When staff goes out on a complaint, we don’t have enforcement authority and we can’t write tickets, so if someone isn’t listening, the next step is for them to get the PD involved because they do have citation authority.
“But in this case, it shouldn’t have happened,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco said the parks department will explain this to the complaining neighbors so they understand that kids who are playing pickup football are within their rights to do so.
The Coast News attempted to reach neighbors on Carpa Court to find out about the complaints. Several neighbors said they didn’t have a problem with the kids, including one who was named in Duxbury’s email as one of the chief complainants.
“That is totally inaccurate,” the man said before shutting his door.
Several neighbors who live across from the park said they didn’t mind the children playing because it deters seedier activities, including drug dealing.
“I love the kids playing football, soccer, baseball on the fields,” said Bernardette Feener. “I would rather have them there than the drug dealers. I think that sign is wrong, I don’t mind the organized teams playing on the field.”
Margaret Lozuk, who also lives across the street, said she could understand how the noise from the park could cause the Carpa Court neighbors to complain, but she, like Feener, said she rather would deal with noise from children playing than with other issues.
“The park is better than it used to be in the past, but if that bench (near the children’s play structure) could talk, it would have some stories,” Lozuk said. “I don’t think the kids get too loud and they are generally well-behaved.”