It was the snow job from hell, right in Fort Bragg’s own elegant and spacious Cotton Auditorium. Smack in the public’s astonished face without wit or imagination, the Mendocino Parks and Recreation District took the occasion Thursday night to hurtle like an Olympic bobsled down a precipitous slope of crazed dissimilation, shattering all records for fraudulent misstatement and succeeding brilliantly in pissing off the whole region and exposing in the limelight of a major public meeting the long-running culture of corruption and deception that has long distinguished the Mendocino Coast Parks and Recreation District as Mendocino County's hands down, most dissolute, dishonest and incompetent public agency.
The proposal under discussion was the reinvention of the Parks District’s mile square property off Highway 20 as a zone of unrestricted environmental destruction, caged with chainlink fences where dirt bike and off-road vehicle mayhem could rage without restraint.
The meeting was well attended. There was a sizable contingent of dirt bike enthusiasts but a much larger group of appalled local citizens. The Parks District Board Chairman, Bob Bushansky was there controlling the microphone to make the case to a famously ecologically conscious local public that massive environmental degradation was good for nature. The substance of the Bushansky-ites argument was that the reduction of the property to a dirt lot ground into dust under the roaring rampage of thousands of dirt bikes was friendly to plants and animals and convenient to proximate neighbors. They had to do some mighty contortions to get there.
They were led forward by professional grant getter Sara Huff, top promoter for the Recreational Alliance, a dirt bike and off-road vehicle advocacy group keen to control the property. They floated a heavily ironic argument that would have had everybody laughing if the issue wasn’t so tragic, the promoters not so hell bent and the Parks and Rec District a little less obvious in their avaricious support for irresponsibility.
The Parks and Rec District started the meeting off by firmly admonishing the crowd that since the issue was so contentious everyone would have to be extra nice and the conventional three minute limit on public comments was too generous. Public comments would be restricted to two minutes each. I don’t know where we got the idea that public comments are reasonably limited to three minutes to begin with. It serves authority very well, but I can see no logical or legal reason for it, still the three-minute rule has become a local convention.
The Parks District or perhaps Bob Bushansky himself (former Fort Bragg councilwoman Meg Courtney’s paramour) as the Chief Crowd Comment Containment Official thought that temperatures overall might be reduced by the restriction. So they gave us two minutes each.
Ms. Sara Huff, however, got 30 minutes to tell the crowd how great an idea it all was and how much it would benefit the animals and trees to have dirt bikes tearing up the landscape. She said she first became interested in the property as a biologist. Actually, I am not aware of any credentials Ms. Huff may possess as a biologist, but she is the principal promoter for the alliance of dirt bike riders that want to control the property. Perhaps she can straighten that out for us someday.
Ms. Huff went on to describe the catastrophic mess that the Parks and Recreation District had allowed to accumulate on the property subsequent to their long ago failed enterprise to convert it to a golf course. She had a lot of pictures of the trash, blamed it (no doubt correctly) on the homeless, and seemed to think that the color pictures made an excellent argument for the further degrading of the property by dirt bikes and off-road vehicles.
Certainly, the mess was substantial. Ms. Huff deserves a lot of credit. This is her baby. The Parks District is putty in her hands.
In eager anticipation of eventual control of the property, Ms. Huff was avid to first recruit well-meaning volunteers to do the work. (She christened them the “Silver Seven.”) Then she captured some CalWorks grants to assist cleaning up some of the heaps of garbage that Parks and Rec had permitted to accrue, and most convincing of all brought money to the he Parks District.
Ms. Huff's contribution in time and energy provided the funds to acquire a secure a chainlink fence. Parks and Rec were very gratified. Such clean-up initiative was apparently way over Parks and Rec’s pay grade. Thursday night was to be the formal ratification of a quid pro quo worked out in Park’s board meetings with humble acknowledgment by Parks and Rec that they were not in any sense responsible property owners and are not capable of taking care of their own property. They rejoice that the dirt bikers intend to do something since they have no ideas of their own.
Ms. Huff has made powerpoint presentations to the Fort Bragg City Council as well, notably enlisting councilman Will Lee as an outspoken supporter of dirt bike havoc on the premise that anydamnthing we can do that brings people to visit us is a good thing. Trees and animals do not spend money in Fort Bragg.
It is understandable that Ms. Huff has been able to swing such influence. The Mendocino Coast Parks and Recreation Department is desperate and systemically bewildered. They were the subject of a Grand Jury report last year that revealed not only were they in bankruptcy but had gone to considerable lengths to get into that condition and keep that information from the public.
The Grand Jury report was a bit of a bombshell. When I spoke to the Parks and Rec chief administrator a few months ago in reference to the grand jury report, he told me that he was not actually sure if they were or were not in bankruptcy but he would check, and anyway the report (true or not) was grossly unfair, intrusive and overblown. The huge golf course project that crashed and burned was irrelevant to the bankruptcy and the bankruptcy had nothing to do with the appalling condition of the Highway 20 property.
I guess it was indeed irrelevant since the simple reduction of the property to a dirt lot, ripped to the very bones by dirt bikes, is proposed to be sufficient to take care of all the problems, alleviate the trash that had piled up in the absence of responsible management and get Parks and Rec a free fence. Who can argue with that?