Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 10:14 am | A Few Clouds 71º


Ron Fink: Righting Lompoc’s Recreation Myth

Every time a new recreational project is proposed or an election occurs there are lots of claims that “there is nothing to do in Lompoc.” This is only true if you choose not to put down the remote and look for something to do.

Lompoc has had a reputation for producing several major league sports figures over the last few decades. This doesn’t happen in communities where there isn’t a concerted effort to provide a high quality youth sports program.

During various seasons of the year you’ll find well-organized and -coached little league, women’s and men’s softball, soccer games and swimming competitions.

The Lompoc Unified School District provides boys and girls sporting teams that compete and win in league play, and the basketball, soccer and football teams produced by both Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools are among the best in the west.

The City of Lompoc also offers unorganized recreational opportunities too: the skateboard park is a well-used venue, and the River Bend Bike Park has some well-worn and equally well-maintained paths for youth to test their bicycling skills.

The only reason that there aren’t more sports venues is because the political will to invest money hasn’t materialized. More on this later.

Outdoor sports aren’t the only recreational outlets. There are two very fine museums in town that are worth your time.

Spending time in these well-maintained time capsules is both informative and entertaining. Do you want to know what the business center looked like around 1900? Visit one of the museum’s and you’ll find out.

Do you want to know what it was like to live without a cell phone, TV or internet access? Visit the Fabing-McKay-Spanne Property and take in what was once the “good life.” There are stories to be told by the docents and things to see there that are sure to raise your eyebrows.

The city runs a robust senior program consisting of meals and programs ranging from drama and music to exercise.

Currently we are in the height of festival season: SpringFest was held in April, a well-attended Flower Festival and parade in Ryon Park just wrapped up, and the Dog Show is coming at the end of July.

Of course, an amazing display of fireworks just concluded with a bang.

Then there are all the service clubs, churches and scouting organizations that meet regularly.

Now to the politics of recreation. On May 3, 2005, only 20 years after they started thinking about it, city leaders adopted a master plan for the long-awaited sports complex that was to house soccer, football and little league fields and a lengthy multi-use bike/hiking trail. It seemed that the city was finally on the right track.

It was a different political time then, deals were made and many rules were circumvented so elected leaders could show the community that “progress was being made” to address their recreational concerns. Most notably the well-established construction standards for parks were overlooked.

A volunteer group soon began work on parts of River Bend Park. Land was graded and grass was planted for the soccer fields, but due to insufficient funds, much-needed gopher wire was not installed. This was short sighted because today there are scores of gopher mounds and holes that young players must navigate around each week.

They also failed to provide the parking areas that were a part of the master plan, instead opting to put in what could best be described as an undersized and poorly planned temporary parking area (which remains today), so families were forced to park anywhere they could and trudge to the playing fields.

Even though there was a “plan” to develop the River Bend Park, it appears that the city didn’t require the volunteer developers to make it detailed like they do for every other project in town.

If the city had stuck to the original plan and applied adopted development standards to all of the volunteer projects, we could have had the premier sports complex that many people have been clamoring for.

In 2001 plans were briefly discussed for a bike skills park, but it was never completed and wasn’t included in the master plan. It wasn’t until 2014 that a well-organized volunteer group was able to develop the bike park.

This group followed the rules, submitting and correcting their plans. City inspectors made sure that they built the area according to plan.

Today kids are using the park on a regular basis, and volunteers still maintain it.

So saying that there isn’t anything to do in Lompoc just isn’t true. There could be more, but more means more community involvement. 

Let’s face it: with a very large number of people commuting to faraway places to work each day, who has the time to devote to creating a new recreational program?

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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