Amid Confusion, Redlands Says Skatepark Won’t Harm Historic Bowling Lawn

A spokesman for the City of Redlands is offering assurances that the skate park the city is going to construct in the midst of Sylvan Park in one of the city’s most culturally sensitive areas will in no way interfere with Redlands’ historic lawn bowling club.
Previously, city staff had been somewhat ambiguous with regard to the facility’s footprint, providing in less than a two week period four documents showing different locations.
At present, the city is committed to building the recreational amenity at the “Sylvan plunge” site, said city spokesman Carl Baker.
“The majority of the skatepark site is directly over what was formerly the swimming pool site known as the ‘New Redlands Plunge,’” Baker told the Sentinel on Tuesday December 5.
Nevertheless, several descriptions, diagrams, maps and a staff report do not confirm that location, and one document, the soil study for the project, indicates the skatepark is actually to be sited on or will abut the historic lawn bowling club. Another shows it impacting another historic feature, the fragile stone zanja, an aqueduct constructed by early Spanish settlers nearly two centuries ago, in Sylvan Park.
In reaction to the ambiguity regarding the skatepark location, a letter has been circulating throughout community which alleges “the appearance of intentional misrepresentation and misinformation about the skatepark, environmental impact and skatepark site location. There has repeatedly been a failure to provide an accurate location of the proposed skatepark within Sylvan Park. In fact, the [cultural resources assessment done by the firm] ESA PCR shows the skate park on the lawn bowling secondary greens that are a local and state historical resource. The footprint of the skate park is larger than the plunge. Even those people involved with Friends of the Skatepark have allegedly confirmed that the skatepark plan will directly impact and/or destroy the historic lawn bowling club site. The USDA soil sample site collection map is at the historic lawn bowling club, once again confirming the site is the historic lawn bowling site. The city staff misinformation gives the appearance of intent to deceive the public, taxpayers, donors, elected and appointed officials, commissions, committees, other staff members and to circumvent California Environmental Quality Act laws. The repeated misrepresentation of the proposed skatepark site’s surrounding historical structure, environment, and location appears deceptive information, which is allegedly done to ‘push through’ and acquire funding without the following due process. The lack of due diligence and misrepresentation of the skate park project deceives taxpayers, donors, the public, the historical community, officials and has the potential to destroy Redlands’ historical resources and environment including but not limited to Sylvan Park, The Redlands Lawn Bowling Club, historic accessory buildings, the historical zanja rock structures, possible Native American sites, as well as the natural environment at Sylvan Park, which are under threat from this project and will be directly and indirectly impacted by a 15,000-23,000 square foot built skatepark located at Redlands Sylvan Park. The historic lawn bowling club and extended greens are impacted and destroyed by skatepark plans.”
Sylvan Park is located at 601 North University Street, south of East Colton Avenue and not too distant from Redlands University. The Historic Redlands Lawn Bowling Club and extended greens received a City of Redlands historic and scenic designation on September 3, 2015 and those grounds were given a state historic resource designation in 2015, as well.
According to the letter circulating around the community, “The former quality of life director arbitrarily altered lawn bowling green fencing impacting the lawn bowling greens necessary for sanctioned tournaments. This area is included in recognized historic designations. These lawns are important and not to be destroyed.”
On June 21, 2016, the Redlands City Council approved a “conceptual plan” for a skatepark to be located at Sylvan Park, exempting the project from the rigors of the California Environmental Quality Act by citing 15061 (b)(3). There is nothing to indicate, however, that the notice of exemption was filed with the county clerk.
“This exemption is inappropriate and based on misinformation by intent and lack of due diligence to recognize the historic and environmental impact of the cited skatepark conceptual plan to be located at Sylvan Park,” the letter states. “The [cultural resources assessment done by] ESA is flawed. The June 2016 minutes do not appear to support the California Environmental Quality Act review claim when the city voted to exempt the project from the California Environmental Quality Act. It would be impossible for even a conceptual plan of locating the skatepark ‘23,000 square feet’ site not to impact the surrounding historic and natural environment at Sylvan Park. The skatepark plan includes tree removal.”
In addressing the issues raised in the letter, Baker stated “An initial study was prepared for the project pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act guidelines. As part of the initial study, a cultural resources assessment was prepared by a qualified consultant. The report found that the proposed skatepark will have no impact on either the historic Mill Creek Zanja or the Redlands lawn bowling facility; both resources are located far enough away from the project site as to not be impacted by the proposed skatepark. The project will also not require removal of any significant trees.”
Furthermore, Baker said, “As the project only requires excavations 3.5 feet deep, there are very limited potential impacts to native soil. Nevertheless, the initial study requires that a qualified archeologist be on-site during all grading activities and if any archeological resources are encountered that they can be dealt with appropriately.”
Baker told the Sentinel, “The initial study was scheduled to be reviewed at a meeting this morning [December 5] of the city’s environmental review committee. However, due to illnesses, several members of the committee were absent, including the project planner. Therefore, the item was continued to a meeting at 9 a.m. on December 18.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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