CMWD goes up 'Lazy River'
at park hearing
by Kelly Feser Eells
Nearly 40 people showed up for a public hearing on the Mitigated
Negative Declaration for Casitas Municipal Water District's proposed
Alternative Swimming Facility - a "lazy river" - Wednesday
night, and nearly half of them had something to say about the
The first speaker, Sharon Kroll, said she was "very proud
and pleased to represent the Boys and Girls Club of Ventura,"
on whose behalf she urged community support for the facility.
"We're always looking for inexpensive, safe, healthy places
to take these children, who don't have what I had as a youngster."
Explaining that, as the population of at-risk youth grows, "And
it's growing very, very rapidly in our county, we find that there
are less affordable things for our youth to do. So, what do these
kids do? They're not going to stay in the house; they're going
to hang out on the corner," where, she added, a good number
of them are either victimized or become victimizers themselves.
"So, while I'm a great environmentalist - I love this country,
the Earth, our oceans, rivers, trees, birds. Even snakes,"
she joked, "as long as they stay in
their fields. And, while I believe everything has a place under
God's great sun...I also love the word 'possibility.'
Everything really is possible," said Kroll, "if we'd
all get on the same side and work for the common good. These
kids are dying, folks. We just had a youngster killed right around
the corner from where I live on Ventura Avenue...just because
he was standing on the corner and someone perceived him to be
a gang member, which he was not." She concluded by asking
people to remember that, "when you're talking about the
environment and the safety of the fish and the birds, please
also remember my children. And your children, and the children
of the neighbors and the faces that you never ever see. You know,
these kids don't know anything about nature, but with (more)
places like this, well, people like me, working in prevention,
can show them something other than concrete" and teach them
to appreciate it. "If we'd just all get on the same page,"
she said, the facility offers an opportunity to enhance the lives
Mira Monte resident Ray King said he "surprised to see this
project back" for consideration "so soon. I have some
real concerns about it, and I did before. I don't think Casitas
can be everything to everyone; it's already an educational resource.
And, as I understand it, the (existing) children's playground
hasn't been a real success." King noted that, "as a
water user, my first concern is the MTBE."
Kale Starbird, also of Mira Monte, echoed King's sentiments.
"I'd like to see the Board concentrate on improving water
quality," she said. "But my main concern is traffic.
I'd like to see a moratorium on all recreation projects."
Acknowledging his "respect for the Audubon Society's and
other points of view," Oak View resident Paul Buckley said
he believed that "the project should go ahead.
I've thought about it and weighed it," said Buckley, adding
that, as a volunteer boat patrolman, "I've seen how the
staff (at the lake) operates and they're very vigilant about
everything. They're as concerned about body contact and water
quality as I am," and work hard to keep the area pristine.
"I'm not salaried by the water district, and no one asked
me to appear here tonight," he said. "I'm here as a
32-year resident. And I believe that the project can (safely)
go ahead, provided we keep monitoring it and deal with any problems
as they come along."
Ojai resident Pat Weinberger was equally supportive. "I've
been associated with this lake and its board since 1968,"
she said. "And I don't think any (board) has done as much
for Casitas as this one has. I, too, am a member of the Audubon
Society," said Weinberger, then indicated that, under the
current Board's administration, bird-watching opportunities and
other recreational opportunities have significantly improved.
"The Charles Teague watershed area was, initially, zoned
for 10,000 housing units. This board helped preserve the area,
and I can't say enough in praise of them." She added that
she was confident the project had been comprehensively studied,
and that she supported it. "I'd also like to thank the lady
who told us to consider the kids," the human factor, when
considering the overall environmental impact.
John Christianson of Meiners Oaks began by saying, "while
it seems like a noble intention to provide recreational opportunities"
that do provide for body contact, "the fact is, we're losing
trees already because of - documented - fecal events at the (existing)
playground. And we're going to have more of these events,"
if this project goes forward.
Ojai resident Jack Gillooly and Environmental Defense Center
representative John Bussey addressed the "inadequacies"
of the Mitigated Negative Declaration document. "I'm not
going to say whether the facility is good or bad," said
Bussey, "and I don't think the Audubon Society is trying
to endlessly halt the project." Their primary concern, he
explained, is cumulative environmental impacts were "inadequately
studied and analyzed." Bussey provided Board members with
a written summary of the EDC's findings.
At the hearing's close, District Manager John Johnson told the
nearly evenly divided audience that, once all of the evening's
testimony had been reviewed by associated County and state officials,
another public meeting would be scheduled related to those findings.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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