Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 7:32 am | Fair 58º


Local News

Elings Park Foundation Yields to Opposition, Scales Back Development Plans

Board removes all proposed projects, including a BMX track, for southern portion of park

The Elings Park Foundation has eliminated all development to Elings Park South from its project proposal in response to intense neighborhood opposition throughout the planning process.

While Elings Park North includes the old city landfill, opponents have come out in force to besmirch development plans on the natural south side of the park. A revised project description to the city of Santa Barbara will exclude a BMX track with night lighting and a PA system, a disc golf course, additional parking and a park office building with restrooms.

“The issues related to the south side of the park are just more complex,” foundation executive director Steen Hudson said.

The board decided it was best to remove all the proposed projects on that side of the park.

During environmental hearings before the Planning Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission in November, a standing-room-only crowd was made up mostly of unsupportive Mesa residents and the citizen group Save Elings Park.

Their concerns focused on noise, lighting and traffic impacts, and the proposed bicycle motocross track was the least liked proposed addition to the park, given the possibility for noisy crowds attending night races.

Neighborhood outreach through mailers, site tours and door-to-door visits resulted in more feedback to the project, and it became clear that the lights and noise expected to be ushered in with a new BMX track had residents worried. Proposed plans also include more special events — up to 12 a year with 1,000 visitors or more — which contribute to traffic and noise issues.

The Elings Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization, owns the south park and rents the north park from the city for $1 per year. The south park is designated as undeveloped parkland and requires a land-use change to regional park in order to be developed. The foundation is still working with Santa Barbara County on amending the 1999 covenant that limits uses to passive recreation, Hudson said.

“We would really love to finish this project for the community,” he said. “The park exists entirely to serve Santa Barbara County folks.”

The controversy over the BMX track has distracted from the variety of good things the park accomplishes, Hudson said. He said he hopes the park can conclude its decade-long planning process so it can begin fundraising.

“Ten years and a lot of money have gone into studies and meetings,” he said, adding that he’s optimistic the new plans will be more well-received.

Hudson wrote in a news release that “we now ask everyone who has expended time and resources on this controversy to leave it in the past and join us in making Elings Park even more valuable to the community.”

The revised phase three project plans include development for both the upper and lower plateau of Elings Park North, including a community activity center, additional playing fields, a family activity zone with a rock climbing wall and zip line, picnic areas, parking, an 18-hole putting green, an amphitheater, batting cages, a dog walk, new lighting, landscaping improvements and a landfill cover.

Off-site elements to the project, such as sewer and water lines and an upgraded transit bus stop on Las Positas Road, also are included in phase three.

From here, the environmental impact report will be recirculated — with a new public comment period — and the planning process will determine how much the timetable is set off by the changes, Hudson said. Construction for the previous proposal was estimated to take 24 months.

The 230-acre park, located off Las Positas Road and Cliff Drive, already has multiuse trails, a BMX track that will remain open for now, ball fields, soccer fields, special-event venues, an amphitheater, picnic areas, playgrounds and a paragliding training hill.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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