Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 3:39 am | Fair 55º


Ron Fink: Riverbend Park Lighting and McLaughlin Road Crossing Queries

On Feb. 20, Lompoc City Council member Jim Mosby made two requests for the staff to pursue; each bear further scrutiny since he is frequently misinformed on many subjects.

The first was to try to install lighting at Riverbend Park. His claim was that it was needed to improve recreational opportunities for our kids. I can’t argue with this idea but in this case, facts get in his way.

Riverbend Park is in the northeast corner of Lompoc on county land and was first proposed back in 2005. It was described as follows:

“The project proposes the development of a large turf area north of McLaughlin Road at Riverbend Park to provide soccer fields, alternating with softball/little league-sized practice fields or football practice area, depending upon the time of year.

"Improvements will be temporary due to flood hazards. The existing parking area will be expanded to provide a total of 580 parking spaces to accommodate weekday and weekend maximum use and will be accessed from McLaughlin Road.

“South of McLaughlin Road, an open recreational turf large enough for four little league fields, alternating with four soccer fields, is proposed.

"Cut-outs for little league fields and softball fields are not proposed, to maximize the playing field options. All structures within the flood hazard area shall be temporary.

“Four tennis courts are proposed for this area. Other amenities that could be considered in the future are a permanent restroom, concession stand, drinking fountains, a basketball court, open recreational area, a tot lot, community garden or picnic area.

"A parking area in the South Park will provide two connected lots with a maximum of 312 parking spaces to accommodate weekday and weekend maximum use.”
None of the development plans included playing field lights and specifically stated that “all structures within the flood hazard area shall be temporary.” This would include any light standards since they are permanent structures to support light fixtures.

The portions of this park that have been improved were built by volunteers. Construction plans were never prepared and thus not approved by either the city or the county, nor was the completed work inspected by either city or county building officials.

All the improvements to date have been inconsistent with the original development plan.

To do this properly, the council should direct city staff to prepare a new or revised development plan and complete an Environmental Impact Report update to evaluate these changes.

Of course, considering the mindset of Mosby and his two accomplices, they won’t even consider doing it the way it should be done.

The next request was to try to open a discussion with the county to reopen the McLaughlin Road crossing to offer another route into town from La Purisima Road.

This route, which starts and stops on county property, was open for many years following seasonal rains and was used by hundreds of commuters each day. It was instrumental in relieving congestion at the Wye north of town.

The reason it isn’t open today is because it was expensive to maintain and there were objections from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because it might interfere with the migration of fish from the ocean to Cachuma Reservoir.

How the fish would navigate a river that is dry seven out of every 10 years wasn’t discussed.

The Circulation Element of the 1997 Lompoc General Plan, contained this language:

“The City shall pursue funding from Federal, state, and regional agencies for: 1) construction of a fair-weather crossing across the Santa Ynez River using the existing right-of-way along McLaughlin Road, and 2) widening of Robinson Bridge on Highway 246.”

That language is not contained in the 2030 General Plan.
So, somewhere in the intervening years the idea of keeping this crossing open was taken off the council radar screen.

Mosby thought the Santa Barbara County General Plan included the Mclaughlin crossing. A county circulation map, part of the GP, for the Lompoc area was certified in December 1980 and last amended in December 1982, some 35 years ago.

While it shows a “collector roadway” extending across the river at McLaughlin Road, it is conceivable, if the map were reviewed using today’s standards, that this road would no longer appear.

Would it be a promising idea to reopen it every year? It would, but let’s face today's reality, there isn’t any money in the city or county budget for continuing maintenance.

Besides, it would increase traffic along the narrow and poorly maintained roadway next to a park that is widely used on most weekends for soccer and little league baseball games.

Once again Mosby has used outdated information and distorted existing park development plans to make a point, and his accomplices, council member Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega, were quick to support him without even researching the information he was using to support his request.

When will this nonsense stop? There is an election in November and there may be an opportunity to replace two of these council members with people who have better judgment.

— 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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