The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors put an end to plans for a new coastal park in Isla Vista last week, but I.V. Surfrider is refusing to give up the fight.
The I.V. chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental activist organization, began a letter-writing campaign to 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone last Friday, asking him to reopen negotiations regarding the purchase of two vacant, privately owned parcels of land on the ocean side of Del Playa Drive. The plan, which Firestone rejected at the board of supervisors meeting last week, would have authorized the county to purchase the land and use it to create a large public open space, called Claire’s Park by the organization.
Eric Cummings, secretary for I.V. Surfrider and one of the organizers of the letter-writing campaign, said the group gathered more than 400 signatures last Friday and Saturday at its table on DP in front of the property in question, in addition to about 50 more from other environmental groups.
“The amount of public support for this is unprecedented,” Cummings said. “We’re getting signatures from almost everyone who passes by – even police, garbage collectors, gardeners – everyone in the community really cares about this.”
Each of the letters to Firestone addresses Surfrider’s chief complaints regarding the supervisor’s decision about the park plan and includes a space for the signer to include comments of his or her own.
Cummings said one of the group’s biggest concerns is that Firestone ended the property deal negotiations, which have been in the works since August 1991, so abruptly. He said Surfrider also plans to mount a separate petition drive on campus this week to garner more support for their cause.
“The main thing is that we convince Firestone to open this issue back up,” Cummings said. “We want Firestone to treat I.V. as a valuable part of the county, and until he does we are going to hold his feet over the fire.”
Cummings said the money for the stamps, envelopes and paper for the letters came from one of the many small grants distributed by the Shoreline Preservation Fund.
Mathis Riley, co-chair of I.V. Surfrider, said he hopes the group’s efforts will show the board of supervisors that it was remiss in canceling the deal after so many years of work.
“It’s just to remind the county how important this park is to I.V.,” Riley said. “We’re trying to wake them up.”
Both Riley and Cummings said this campaign is unusual for Surfrider because, unlike many of the environmental issues the group deals with, the creation of Claire’s Park has received almost unanimous support from the community.
“It’s pretty hard to be against a coastal blufftop park in I.V.,” Riley said. “People really want to see this happen.”
Riley said he expects such an overwhelming show of enthusiasm for the land purchase to give Firestone reason to reopen the negotiations.
“I think Firestone will change his mind,” Riley said. “This is a huge show of support [for the park] from the I.V. community, and fundamentally, he’s supposed to represent us – we’re his constituents.”
Cummings said the park would be a great asset to I.V., much like the oft-used Gaffney – also known as Dog Shit – Park at DP and Camino Corto.
“If you look at how a park like Dog Shit helps foster community, it would be incredible to have a park like that in the heart of I.V,” Cummings said.