City Council to Consider a Split From Valley-Wide Recreation

Valley-Wide Recreation and Parks District manages several parks in Menifee, including Wheatfield Park.
Yet another of the many transitional decisions facing Menifee following incorporation is expected to draw a large crowd to City Hall for Wednesday night's City Council meeting.

On the agenda is a discussion item regarding the management of the city's parks and recreational facilities. A staff report recommends that the council authorize staff members to "implement a city-wide approach to delivering community services, parks and recreation programming for the City of Menifee."

Currently, Menifee has no Parks and Recreation Department. The management of parks in the city is divided between two entities: The City of Menifee, which manages parks west of Interstate 215 through a contract with Riverside County; and the Valley-Wide Recreation and Parks District, which manages parks east of the 215. Valley-Wide is a separate entity that manages many Southwest Riverside facilities not under direct city control.

Valley-Wide has managed the parks and recreational facilities on the east side of Menifee for several years -- long before the city was incorporated in 2008. Headquartered in San Jacinto, Valley-Wide maintains a Menifee office in Wheatfield Park -- a 25-acre complex including six athletic fields, a gym, tennis courts, basketball courts and a community center where the organization conducts many recreational programs.

Valley-Wide is responsible for several other parks on the east side of the city, including Sunrise Park (left) on the edge of the Heritage Lake development.

Mayor Scott Mann said this week that Wednesday's discussion is not a negative reflection on Valley-Wide's administration of parks and facilities. He said that a continued relationship with Valley-Wide is one of three options that could be discussed.

"The intent of the discussion is to eliminate duplication," Mann said. "It's not a matter of whether the city likes Valley-Wide or not.

"The question is this: When your city has incorporated, would you rather have control of the parks by a five-member board out of San Jacinto, or would you rather have local control?"

The staff report included in Wednesday's meeting agenda recommends the following:

-- The city terminate its services contract with Riverside County, which currently maintains and manages the city-owned parks west of the 215 Freeway. That contract is up for renewal on July 1.

-- The city begin a process with the Local Agency Formation Commission to "pursue a detachment from Valley-Wide." According to the staff report, this process could take six to nine months to complete.

-- The city direct the city manager to develop a process to appoint a Community Services Commission as of July 1, 2015. This would in essence create a parks and recreation department, to be headed by a Community Services Director -- a position that is included in the current city budget.

The timing of this discussion is significant because of the planned opening this spring of the Audie Murphy Ranch Sports Park -- an 11-acre site including a skate park, baseball field, basketball courts, soccer fields and playgrounds. This park on Newport Road just west of Murrieta Road is scheduled to be be turned over to the city by the developer, Brookfield Homes, in April.

Mann explained the three options council members could consider when discussing the staff report:

1. Continue what he described as a "bifurcated" arrangement involving two separate entities.

2. Negotiate with Valley-Wide about expanding its services to include parks on the west side of the freeway.

3. Explore the possibility of the city taking over control of all parks in Menifee.

"This is one of the long-standing transitional functions facing a city after incorporation," Mann said. "Because we have never explored this issue, we feel it is necessary for the council to have a discussion with the staff about this."

Dean Wetter, general manager of Valley-Wide, said he has been aware for some time of the city's plan to consider a detachment from his agency.

"Our reaction is that we want to make sure it's an open discussion and everyone has all the information," said Wetter, whose organization on its website this week urges residents to attend the city council meeting and "let your voice be heard."

"Creating a sense of community is what we do," Wetter continued. "Nothing has been said about this being considered because of anything negative we have done. It's all positive. We believe that because of what we do, the community benefits from our services."

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 29714 Haun Road.

Control of the Audie Murphy Sports Park, which will include a skate park, will be turned over to the city this spring.





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