Santa Barbara County supervisors Gail Marshall and Susan Rose recommended Wednesday that the county donate $800,000 to help Dos Pueblos Little League remain at the baseball fields located adjacent to Girsh Park in Goleta.
Camino Real III L.L.C. President Mark Linehan, who owns the 12 acres housing the baseball fields, announced his intent to sell the land last month. The 13 acres of Girsh Park, behind the Costco shopping center, are owned by the nonprofit Girsh Park Foundation and were developed after Linehan donated the land.
Linehan said it has always been his intent to sell the rest of the 25 acres to the Girsh Park Foundation, so it would remain a park. Although the land was appraised at $6 million in 1997, Linehan said he is willing to sell it for $4 million if the land will remain a park.
“I think this is an excellent place to have a park. Clearly a lot of Little Leaguers use the park, and I’m sure they want to continue using it instead of it turning into new housing,” he said. “There was $1.1 million spent building the park, and that’s all the more reason why it would be silly to tear them out.”
In their recommendation to the board of supervisors, Marshall and Rose said government agencies on the local and state level will be collaborating to preserve the park for the league.
“At 12 acres, it appears that the publicly stated asking price is reasonable and the existing ball fields bring significant value as a community resource,” the recommendation stated. “In addition, the ball fields at Girsh Park will be a collaborative fund-raising effort including many different resources. Our state representatives Jack O’Connell and Hannah-Beth Jackson have committed to requesting a significant amount of funding from this year’s California state budget.”
Dos Pueblos Little League President Daniel Read said the league, which consists of 350 members, has coordinated a petition drive and fundraiser in order to raise money to keep the land.
“The Little League was not aware that the ball parks were a temporary basis. It was promised that there would be no development on those acres, but now the land is up for sale and there are some developers who do want to build on that land,” he said. “[Linehan] set a six-month time limit to make a decision on who to sell the land to. In essence, that gives us, meaning the community, six months to come up with $4 million to purchase the land.”
Jennifer Briggs, Santa Barbara County Parks Dept. director, said it was always known that the Little League would need to relocate after three to five years.
“It was always believed that [the league] would be relocated at Santa Barbara Shores. [The league] has always known that it was temporary, and they would need a formal and long-term plan. The little league was aware at the time, and they wanted to secure a guarantee [to stay in Goleta],” she said. “They contacted myself and the supervisor of the 3rd District to say, ‘How can this become permanent?’ They wanted to talk about acquiring the space in exchange for making permanent facilities, [like] bathrooms.”
The $800,000 the county is considering to donate will come out of South Coast West Quimby funds, fees collected by the county for development impacts. Briggs said the fund was created by a statewide act in 1983 in order to increase government contributions to recreational facilities.
“[The county is] recommending a good portion of that money goes toward the acquisition. The county thinks that if the local government agency steps forward first, the state and local community will follow. Everyone has joined hands on this one,” Briggs said.
This Saturday, Dos Pueblos will host a fund-raising event at Girsh Park at 9:15 a.m. Read said the league has invited actor Kevin Costner, former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, Congresswoman Lois Capps, as well as Marshall, O’Connell and Jackson.
“Our need is to have as many people as possible out there to show the politicians that the community wants to have the land remain ball fields rather than see them developed,” he said. “Funding is extremely scarce. Politicians need to see a lot of support. If they see a lot of people, then they will fight harder for funding.”
O’Connell said he is hopeful that the community can raise enough money to purchase the land.
“I hope we can preserve the park for recreational component. I’m very supportive of the Little League’s effort,” he said. “I hope the state can play a positive role. I’m fighting tooth and nail right now for funding. I would like to see it become part of the state budget. It’s a very high priority.”