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Mile Square Park is on track to get a major overhaul that’s likely to cost many millions of dollars – yet a public presentation on the upgrades was abruptly shut down this week just as the plan was getting approved.
Because of that, residents have to look at page 1,355 of a massive agenda document to get specific plans.
When a county supervisor tried this week to have staff publicly present where taxpayer money would be going at Mile Square Park, she got shut down.
It came as supervisors were about to approve the plans – all without any public presentation at their meetings.
Supervisors Halt Public Presentation of Park Plans
Supervisor Katrina Foley, who represents neighborhoods just south of the park, asked the county parks director to present the plan for the public, saying she likes the plan and complimenting supervisors’ Chairman Andrew Do on it.
“I think it’s a beautiful project, And I just wanted to give the public an opportunity to learn about the conceptual master plan, because I did get a lot of calls from some Fountain Valley residents,” Foley said when she started the presentation, telling Do she respects “all the work you’ve done on this.”
But a few minutes later, as staff were about to show plans for picnic areas, Do asked her to stop.
“Supervisor Foley, this meeting is for the board to inform the public of the actions we are taking. And it’s attached to the item as an attachment, which the public has complete access to. I hope you will wrap up,” he interjected.
Foley responded, “Mr. Chairman, this is a positive thing I’m trying to do here. I hope you’ll indulge me … I just want [county staff] to show the viewing public the plan, which I’m going to support. So I don’t understand what the problem is.”
“The plan was already up,” Do said, pointing to an agenda attachment that buries the plan on page 1,355.
“In 20 years of public service, I’ve never had a fellow colleague want to withhold from the public the conceptual master plan, to [stop a presentation] to the public what we’re voting on. It’s outrageous.”Supervisor Katrina Foley
Supervisor Don Wagner then backed up Do, saying it’s “simply not accurate” that Do is withholding the plan from the public.
“His point is it is public, it has been made public – for several months.”Supervisor Don Wagner
Wagner then asked his colleagues to approve the plan without any further presentation, which they did unanimously.
“This is exactly why people don’t trust people,” Foley said “They’re not willing to air their items in the public setting.”
It was an unusual sight of supervisors shutting down a colleague’s effort to explain how tax dollars are being spent.
“I didn’t understand that at all,” Foley said in an interview after the meeting.
“I’ve never heard of not sharing with the public the master plan we’re voting on.”
Do and Wagner didn’t return messages for comment.
While Foley got shut down, Do allowed former Supervisor Chris Norby to go over his speaking time limit during public comments.
Golf Course Slated to be Axed For Other Amenities
The plan calls for completely revamping a 93-acre golf course in the middle of the 607-acre park and turning it into a multitude of other uses.
New features are expected include a nature camp, amphitheater, meadow, botanical garden, visitor center, play areas, walking trail, ponds and parking.
To make room for the new park amenities, the county plan calls for removing one of Mile Square Park’s three 18-hole golf courses, leaving two in place.
Fountain Valley resident Mike White has been golfing at the Mile Square Golf Course for the last five years, and says the county plan is eliminating one of the two regulation courses – and that it’s already making it much more difficult to schedule tee times.
“I think there are a lot of golfers that would like to see the player’s course stay there. And it’s just a matter of time that we’re not going to have a place to play anymore,” White said.
“They invited the public [to the input meetings] and they told the public what was going to happen … but they didn’t really want our input,” he added.
“They already knew what they were going to do.”
Some nearby city elected officials have expressed concerns, saying the plan should include more sports fields and questioning whether the county did enough to listen to the public.
But county staff said they did a “significant community engagement effort” – holding a total of two public input meetings on the park plan, both in 2019, and collecting surveys from hundreds of residents online and at park concerts and festivals.
“They had lots of outreach. But it was all one-directional, the information,” said Fountain Valley Councilman Glenn Grandis.
“People could fill out cards to submit information if they chose to. But nobody had the opportunity to ask questions of personnel or speak at the meetings,” he added.
“I appreciated Supervisor Foley’s attempt to really show what the future plans are.”
No cost estimate is available yet for the upgrades, but county parks officials say it’ll come later.
Fountain Valley Might Propose Their Own Plans for the Land
City officials are now looking at making their own proposal for the shift in park land.
Grandis says he’ll be asking the Fountain Valley City Council on Tuesday to formally request that the county let the city acquire some of the 93 acres so it can expand the existing city-run sports fields.
When asked about such an idea, county parks officials have said they haven’t received any proposals from the city to operate any of the 93 acres.
“It’s a once in a generation opportunity for the city to be able to expand our sports park,” Grandis said.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.