If you build it, they will come

The state Department of Parks and Recreation fired off a letter last week to the city of Malibu advising the state no longer intends to cooperate on additional renovation of Bluffs Park.

District Superintendent Russ Guiney wrote in the letter to Mayor Walt Keller that after the council meeting Jan. 8, “It is apparent that the city is changing direction on Bluffs Park.” Guiney said it had been his understanding the city was pursuing permanent relocation of the ball fields, but that it now appears the city, through its newly hired lobbyist, would instead pursue acquisition and/or expansion of the ball fields at Bluffs Park.

The city currently operates the park and, under a temporary Coastal Development Permit, is allowed to use it for soccer, baseball and other sports. However, Guiney said both State Parks and the Coastal Commission understood the city was trying to find its own property on which to relocate the ball fields.

The state has allowed renovation of the turf, and was in the process of securing a Coastal Development Permit for additional renovations, but now says it can no longer support more improvements and will withdraw the permit that is in process.

“It’s not personal. I know the state is upset,” Councilman Harry Barovsky said Tuesday. Noting that the city has been unable to find any flat acreage for ball fields, he added, “We have an obligation to at least look at and possibly pursue all of the avenues including the possibility of expanding or even taking over the Bluffs Park”

The City Council, meeting in special session Tuesday, authorized a letter to State Parks stating it has not abandoned the search for alternate locations. The city has funded creation of a Master Plan of Recreational Facilities and is seeking both private and public funds. The letter reminds the state that the city has put a lot of money into improving Bluffs Park, and that it operates the park as a regional facility.

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The council also sought options that would allow Little League to open its season as scheduled in April. With renovation work behind schedule and no alternative site available, the council authorized an additional $50,000 for overtime and incentives to the contractor. The option of installing night lights was turned down by state parks.

Worn turf is currently being replaced with new sod, and repairs to the septic facilities, authorized last year by the City Council, are planned. In fact, a proposal to upgrade the septics to a state-of-the-art, computer monitored system that could recycle treated effluent for subirrigation of the fields, was to be included in the permit along with plans for a toddler park and renovations to the Michael Landon Center.

Bluffs Park was bought with a funds from a park bond act in the 1970s to preserve scenic access in the area. Russ Guiney said at a city Parks and Recreation planning meeting last spring, “We always pointed out the ball fields were there on a temporary permit basis only. It is one of only two places along the coastline where you get views in both directions.

“Somewhere along the line we need to build facilities that will be consistent with why we bought the property. Present use of the park is not consistent with our mission and goals. The fields will eventually have to find a new home.”

Recently Guiney said the state is in the process of renovating existing trails to improve view access and would eventually like to build a visitors center at the park.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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