Council to Decide Whether City or Valley-Wide Controls Parks

Wheatfield Park is the largest Menifee park managed by Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District.
When you talk about the supervision of parks and recreation in Menifee, city council members agree on one thing: All parks and programs in the city should be controlled by a single entity.

So now the question becomes this: Which entity should that be?

A unanimous vote by council members late Wednesday night did little to resolve the current split in city parks and recreation services between the city-controlled west side of Menifee and the part of town east of the 215 Freeway, controlled by Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District.

All the 90-minute discussion and subsequent vote really did was authorize city staff to "implement a city-wide approach" to control of parks and recreation services for the city. The specifics of that approach were not resolved, however, because of a lack of consensus among council members.

Four of the five points in the city staff's recommendation to the city-wide approach were included in the motion that eventually passed. They were:

-- The city will assume responsibility of Audie Murphy Sports Park, set to open in April.

-- The city will assume responsibility of the Town Center Regent Park, a facility scheduled to open by July 1.

-- The city will not renew its contract with the county for the maintenance of west-side parks and programs on behalf of the city. That contract expires June 30.

-- A Community Services Commission will be formed, in essence giving the city its first Parks and Recreation Department.

A fifth point of the original staff recommendation asked the council to end its relationship with Valley-Wide and assume control of the east side -- in essence, putting control of all the city's parks and recreational programs under the City of Menifee.

The motion that eventually passed modified the original staff recommendation to delete the mention of detaching the city from Valley-Wide. Instead, it called for further study to determine whether the entire city should be put under Menifee control or instead be put entirely under the control of Valley-Wide.

There were at least 30 employees, board members and supporters of Valley-Wide in attendance at the city council meeting, and some spoke in support of the agency, which most agree has done an admirable job for Menifee since 1989. Council members also were informed for the first time that Valley-Wide has established a "sphere of influence" over the west side of the city as well as the east side, through its long-standing invitation to west-side residents to participate in recreational programs at east-side facilities.

Tom Fuhrman was one council member who was in favor of giving total control to Valley-Wide.

"How long will it take for us to get up to the expertise Valley-Wide has in this area?" he asked. "Have you ever seen the TV show 'Deadliest Catch'? Here you have a boat full of experts at catching the king crab, but you're proposing we buy our own boat and learn to fish. That doesn't make sense to me."

Several options were discussed, including the possibility of putting all parks and programs under a city Parks and Recreation Department, but with actual control contracted out to Valley-Wide. Those decisions will be made at a later date, after additional study of the relationship between Valley-Wide and the city.

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