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Ann Cantrell's Corner

Death By A Thousand Cuts

Publisher's note: We are proud to carry the following piece by Ms. Ann Cantrell, who led the "Save The Park by Sharing the Facts" movement and stopped City Hall from putting a "sports complex" in El Dorado Park. (Typically, Ms. Cantrell credits supporters of Save The Park, not herself, for this victory.) In September, 1999 Ms. Cantrell submitted a version of this article to the Press-Telegram, which did not print it (although it has printed other pieces by her.) Portions have been overtaken by subsequent events. Faced with community opposition from LB residents including Stearns Park neighborhood leader Traci Wilson-Kleekamp and Ms. Cantrell, City Hall found an alternative site for its 911 Emergency Communications and Operations Center (ECOC) that did not involve Stearns Park. We post the article here with minor changes since we believe Ms. Cantrell's point about LB park land remains well-taken and is eloquently stated.

(September, 1999) Remember the “911“ issue? As soon as voters rejected a refuse tax increase, the City found the money elsewhere and is now preparing to build the Emergency Communications and Operations Center (ECOC) at the Fire Training Center in Stearns Park. ...

The residents in the neighborhood surrounding Stearns Park had no notice of these plans until two fifty-year-old trees were cut down at 7 AM on Saturday, August 14. (The City claims these trees were “diseased,” but photos show healthy, green-leafed trees being chopped up.)

At a neighborhood meeting on August 19, the complaining residents were assured that: 1) the trees would be replaced 3 to 1 with “mature” trees and that no more park trees would be cut down; (so far, 4 Jacaranda trees have been planted in the area and at least 2 more trees have been removed); 2) that the playground would be moved from the area next to Stearns Street to further north in the park; (however, an ugly black vinyl fence is still visable from homes across from the park); 3) that the playground would be public park land after 2 PM and on weekends, 4) that the Fire Department land on the north-east corner of Argonne would be deeded as park land in perpetuity. (A sign at the corner of Argonne and 23rd proclaims this was already Stearns Park!)

What’s wrong with this picture? The residents of Long Beach have lost another chunk of park land without their knowledge or consent. The National Recreation and Park Association recommends 10 acres of park land per 1,000 residents. The Draft Open Space and Recreation Element indicates that counting all park, playgrounds and playfields; all the public school recreation grounds; all public golf courses and all remaining beach property, Long Beach’s total reaches only 5.9 acres of recreation open space per 1,000 residents (pg. 69). This city should be adding park lands, not whittling away at the small amount left.

Yes, a playground for Tucker School is a good cause, but so was building a library, an animal shelter, a water reclamation plant, a fire department and a police academy on parts of El Dorado Park; putting a police sub-station in Scherer Park; a city hall, main library and parking structure in Lincoln Park.

Other recent losses of open space include the total destruction of Shoreline Park for the Aquarium and Queensway Bay project; the Marriott taking Victory Park as an entrance for their new hotel; and the housing development next to Marina Vista Park being built on land that had been abandoned to the care of Parks and Recreation and was assumed by many to be park land. (According to the Draft Open Space and Recreation Element document (pg. 67), what are now Spinnaker Bay, Del Lago, Costa del Sol and Bay Harbour housing tracts were once planned to be part of the Recreation Park/Marine Stadium complex.)

When given the opportunity to add over 200 acres of recreational facilities, open space and buildings usable for the 911 system and police academy at the Terminal Island Navy Base, the City choose instead to give this valuable land to the port for container terminals. ...

We are slowly suffering the “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” losing our open space and park lands bit by bit, piece by piece, acre by acre. Unless this is stopped, someday we will look around and there will be nothing but buildings and cement where trees, grass and open space once were.

Postscript: On December 7, 1999, the City Council voted to reserve the fenced area as park land. City Hall now plans to build the ECOC on city owned land near the southeast corner of Spring St. and Redondo Ave,

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