Judge Thomas Anderle issued an order prohibiting any wedding receptions, bike races, amplified sound, alcohol sales, or the installation of porta-potties or Klieg lights anywhere on the 130 acres of land known as Elings Park South. The park will still be able to conduct weddings and wedding receptions elsewhere in the park, where it is clearly permitted.
Anderle’s ruling came at the instigation of county planners, who contend that the use of Elings Park South for anything more than passive recreation is a violation of the restrictions imposed when the Park Foundation accepted a $525,000 grant from the county to acquire the land many years ago. While the Park Foundation disputes that contention, its attorney, Steve Amerikaner, said the foundation board would prefer to negotiate a settlement with county planners rather than duke it out in the courts. Failing resolution at the bargaining table, the matter is scheduled to go to trial February 22.
County officials concluded that Elings Park Foundation was in violation of the terms of its grant when the matter was forcefully brought to their attention by Elings Park neighbors, upset by an aggressive expansion of special events and activities proposed by the Elings board. The residents argued that the park was a bad neighbor and was violating its existing operating conditions. Until that was rectified, they insisted, no expansion plans should even be considered. Mostly, they complained about late-night noise during weekend weddings, but those are permitted events and occur in areas of the park that won’t be affected by Judge Anderle’s ruling. They also uncovered the documentation indicating that the organized bike races and other events that take place on the park’s southern portion are beyond the scope of permitted activities. This forced the county’s hand.
As a result, this June’s annual mountain bike race was initially canceled, and then at the last minute — in the face of organized protest by the South Coast cycling community — was allowed to take place. By then, however, many of the racers had backed out and the turnout was notably poor. Those plans received a decidedly hostile reception during a joint hearing of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and Planning Commission earlier this year. Those plans, however, remain in play and are currently the subject of environmental review.