Sad discovery in town

My newspaper column this week (coming out this Thursday) is about how radio-controlled cars and dirt bikes have torn up about five acres of Huntington Beach Central Park. I’m using my blog to post extra photos plus a video of some guy lighting a fire for his car to jump through.

The whole park is 500 acres, so that means that a group of unauthorized hobbyists have taken over one percent of the park for their own use. They did this without obtaining liability insurance, filing an environmental impact report or making plans to mitigate the damage that they caused. This area supported rodents and lizards and had been former habitat for raptors. Nothing lives there now.

A small part of the area that is now denuded.

Empty containers of "nitro" fuel litter the ground, turning our park into a toxic waste dump.

Some of the "nitro" fuel inevitably spills on the ground. More toxic stuff in our park.

Disposable AA batteries were illegally and improperly disposed of on our park land. I counted 20 without trying.

An extensive area has been converted from vegetated habitat to a dust-filled wasteland.

The presence of chione clam shells indicates that Native Americans used to live on the site.

The bluff face is now devoid of plant life, plus the insects, lizards, birds and mammals that depended on them.

The plants in this area used to be hip-high at this time of year. Now there is nothing there. And this is how the wild world ends. Bit by bit, humans are destroying it.

And check out this video. This guy lit a fire on a Santa Ana wind day. I’m sure it’s cool to jump your toy car over real fire, but the city ordinances prohibiting fires anyplace except city-owned barbeque pits are quite clear. A variety of laws are being broken here every day and unless citizens demand enforcement, nothing will happen.

And listen to that mega-decibel whine. No wonder the hawks have left this area. Even if there was anything left there for them to eat, the noise would drive them away. So sad.

(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at http://www.hbindependent.com/blogs_and_columns/ )

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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14 Responses to Sad discovery in town

  1. Turling says:

    Hopefully, someone on the city council reads your column. Terrible.

    • Hi Turling. Even if they don’t read it, I sent an alert to the chief of police and the head of community services who is in charge of the park. And my husband plans to speak at city council. We’ll get some attention to the issue at least.

  2. This sort of self-absorbed, senseless, selfish behavior…so typical of some people, outrages me. I know people feel they have a right to have space to play, for recreation, but why does it have to come at the expense of the environment, and the enjoyment of others? I think people like this should be forced to spend a year doing habitat restoration. When they find out how tremendously difficult it is to restore what is lost, to restore the balance, maybe they’ll stop.

    • Clare, I love your idea of having them do habitat restoration. It is amazingly difficult. Unfortunately, we’ve had “people” tear down young trees in that area. Hard to say who is doing it since no one sees it being done. Senseless destruction.

  3. Kathy Stevens says:

    This is absolutely reprehensible! Where were the police? Some may say “It’s not worth the attention and time of an officer”, but I say, people who act like this will go on to further acts of destruction. What’s to stop them? Already they’ve shown they have no regard for posted laws or the environment.

    • Kathy, actually the police do care. This area can’t be seen from the road, but I sent an email to the chief of police and the next day the cops were patrolling that area, which means that they have to drive on the park sidewalks. My husband is former mayor and we’re both columnists, so I like to think that we have some influence in town.

  4. Julie says:

    I sent the link to the City Council. Unfortunately, it will probably be met with the same lack of concern our HB council exhibits most of the time on almost every important issue.

    • Hi Julie. I hope that the council will not only care, but take action. Vic plans to put the photos into a powerpoint and speak at public comments. If we stir up enough ruckus, I’m confident that we we can protect the area.

  5. Brenda K says:

    It’s an interesting problem….even if they went to the desert to play instead of making their own in the middle of a coastal city park, that would just contribute to the ongoing problem there. I can appreciate that they need somewhere to play (and that’s better at least than joining gangs and menacing entire communities) and the priorities for law enforcement’s finite resources, but it’s a shame there isn’t some sort of readily accessible self-contained location to support that particular type of amusement that wouldn’t cause such environmental degradation and wildlife habitat destruction, and where they could also learn basic social decency and responsibility such as packing out the trash they bring in.

    I like the idea of them having to spend a year doing habitat restoration. A little consciousness training would do them a lot of good. Send them to Burning Man so they can learn that “green is cool”?

    • Hi Brenda. Interestingly, my next column is going to be on the Mojave Desert. No, going to the desert burns gasoline and contributes to global warming. I agree that a place is needed for their activity, but not where they chose because that was and could be again good raptor habitat.

  6. Julie says:

    Good news! Response from City of Huntington Beach:

    Description: The link below will take you to a website that has pictures and description of people lighting fires at Central Park. I have responded to Julie thanking her for providing this information. Please respond to her directly on behalf of City Council.
    Thanks,
    Johanna Stephenson

    Please review the link below:

    https://greenlifeinsocal.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/sad-discovery-in-town/#comments
    Reason Closed: Several patrol checks of the area have been conducted. Signs will be up, prohibiting this activity, some time next week. Although there is no ordinance on the books for this specific activity, the City Attorney is drafting an ordinance that is expected to be enacted in 60 to 90 days.
    Continued checks of the area will be conducted, and violations observed will be addressed. Once the signs are posted, I expect the activity to decrease significantly. Once the ordinance is enacted, citations will be issued to violators

    • Yes, looks like my column in the Independent, backed up by my blog, got some action. Racing those little cars looks like a lot of fun, but it was just in the wrong place and was putting toxics into our park.

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