Where will the children play?

Friends who grew up in my neighborhood, Big Rock, tell me when they were in elementary school they descended the cliff to PCH, strolled across it and bought loads of candy for a dollar at a market long gone. They then hitchhiked through Malibu visiting friends and frolicked unsupervised until dark.

Today, my children still hike the mountain trails and play in the tide pools. I want to give my children the best nature has to offer. However, I also want to provide them with the character building life lessons one derives from team sports.

Child experts assert that children who are engaged in quality after-school sports programs are least likely to engage in criminal and sexual behavior and most likely to succeed in academics. Most youth sex and crime occur in the hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.. Some 70 percent of families with children have two working parents, so after-school hours are often spent in day care, at home alone or in supervised sports activities.

Children live in Malibu. That is a fact. Apparently, it is a sad fact to some. Perhaps they are merely sad that children cannot be raised as they were in the old days. Today’s parents are sad about that, too. However, if we tried it, we would endanger their lives. We cannot even let our children go alone into a public restroom, for fear they will be molested and/or have their throats slit.

Some think parents who desire both natural, wild places and recreational parks should move. Trust me, you don’t want us to move. We are the foundation and the leaders of Malibu. Some have lived here since birth. Some moved here recently. Either way, without us, this town would come to a standstill.

We are mothers who ferry local elderly to the doctor and grocery. We cook for sick neighbors. We parents run the schools; we volunteer in classrooms, fund raise and found community service programs to teach our children how to care for their fellow man and our environment. We train children and adults in sports, drama, painting. We fill the churches and operate their outreach programs. We found and operate nonprofits for local and national causes. We own and staff the local businesses that provide necessary services to the people who live here. We donate things from our businesses to local charities. Those Malibu Dolphin Award winners? Many are parents with children who play sports.

We mothers and fathers voted slow growth, look with dismay at the giant compounds and high walls, and loathe the idea of more shopping malls and the traffic they’ll bring. We wish the state would give us Bluffs Park, but it wants to restore the land and make it available to all for hiking. We don’t disagree; we just wish we could still have ball fields somewhere. Some wish for a combination bird sanctuary/wetlands/natural sewage leach field — and ball park — where the Malibu Bay Company wants to put a shopping center. We wish the company would just go away and donate all its land to Malibu.

Yet, there is no legal way around the fact our land is so expensive only developers can afford to own it. To cover costs and make a profit, they develop, not preserve. We, The People, could have solved our problems by floating a bond and authorizing the city to buy out the developers on our behalf. However, the majority spoke through a survey and said that though they like nature, they don’t like it enough to actually spend any of their own money to preserve it. Plan B seems to be to stall and end up in court, where the city would lose the battle to shut down the company, though if it is lucky, it might force the company to build a few less stores. The new land trust does not have the money to buy the land. Even if it did, the developers don’t want to sell and they don’t have to sell to a private entity.

Presently, Malibu Bay Company is willing to give 12 acres to the children in exchange for the city approving their plans and foregoing expensive litigation. These plans, we understand, conform with the requirements in the community-created General Plan. We should look carefully at this deal to be sure it is really in our best interests as well as the developer’s. We should listen, learn and work together to avoid permanent mistakes.

I wonder, though, after observing some Malibuites’ poor sportsmanship, if there are those who should join a team sport before engaging in further dialogue about our community’ s future. It seems some may need to build the character necessary to play nicely with others, to learn all team members must be included, to work towards a common goal with people who are different, to understand you just cannot pick up the team ball and go home if things aren’t going your way and/or insist you are the only one who gets to use the field when there are lots of children who also wish to play. Maybe we all need children’s parks after all. Friends, would you like to play? Our future depends upon it.

Deirdre Roney

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

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