Happy Birthday wishes to Ernie Maxwell.
We’re only in the middle of celebrating Ernie Maxwell week. The county Board of Supervisors has designated the entire week, from Monday, July 4 through July 10 as Ernie Maxwell Week.
The Town Crier is very happy and proud that Emax, our founder, is still revered throughout the county.
Today, I’m resuming control of the column. I’ll miss the vacation that honoring Emax afforded me. And, I have to acknowledge the many positive comments we received about his thoughts and ideas.
But an event occurred last week that should be discussed from a contemporary perspective, although I know Emax confronted the same situation or context several times in his own experience.
The county Economic Development Agency told Idyllwild Community Recreation Council (ICRC) that it is canceling its recreation contract with the local group.
This will have an effect in our town. I have no doubt that some will feel it’s personal and I feel badly if any are hurt. Certainly the well-being of our friends and neighbors concerns us, whether they are teachers or small businesses.
But I encourage you to read Marshall Smith’s story that elaborates on the county’s decision. Still, you may disagree and I understand your frustration.
What I want to share is that Idyllwild versus Riverside County is not new. While recreation may be the issue today, in the early 1990s it was about water conservation and new development.
Former Supervisor Kay Ceniceros got involved with the water districts during a particularly dry spell and strongly motivated them to develop water plans. In order to convince the locals that these plans were necessary, the county imposed a moratorium on new Hill construction.
Decades before that, there was a struggle between our alpine village and urban, noisy, hot, overgrown and traffic-lit Riverside. Emax and the Chamber of Commerce held many meetings discussing and developing a proposed zoning ordinance for local development.
The board eventually adopted an ordinance in the late 1950s. Although it was drafted and originated here, its acceptance was not without dispute and local objection. If you listen closely, echos of that debate may be heard in Pine Cove now.
Whether the dispute was 50 years ago or only 20, in past instances, a local organization — the Chamber of Commerce or Idyllwild Water District — stepped forward and accepted responsibility for developing and shepherding a solution, satisfactory to locals, through the county channels.
Nearly five years ago, ICRC took possession of the recreation program. They had almost unanimous community support, but that’s dissipated now. Recreation is not much different now than in 2005.
It’s not the staff’s fault. The ICRC governing board never seemed to accept its responsibility to the public.
Already another group has been constituted to develop plans to build a community center. They plan to involve the community in this effort.
Whether they accept this broader mantle or limit themselves to construction of a sorely needed community facility, we can only wish them well and offer all of our hands to enable their success.
Regardless of how the future unfolds, I feel confident of one aspect of this issue. Based on the history of the Hill that I have read, a unique spirit of community and volunteers was planted decades ago. Despite droughts and quakes, it has continued to be nourished and is always ready to bloom when we most need a beautiful blossom.
Don’t forget Friday’s Ernie Maxwell ceremony, 5:30 p.m. at the Nature Center.