I’ve worked on some major developments, both nonprofit and profit. I have a keen sense of this neighborhood — who we are and what most of us want. And, I’ve lived in many beautiful and smartly planned towns, from Mill Valley to Malibu, Portland to Palos Verdes.

In each example, the smart towns have one thing in common. Either by purchase or donation, a beautiful park is at its center. They all have community centers, but right in the middle of town is a park. Why? Because everybody benefits from a park, the businesses, the kids, the old folks and the visitors all benefit.

The Idyllwild Community Recreation Council (ICRC) has narrowly focused on a community center for years now, the seniors and teens need more space, Town Hall is not large enough. How obscene, to build a new multi-million dollar building, with so many vacant buildings all over town. Even next to the library, in the same parking lot, there is a vacant property. What a perfect location Just rent the space. Save the money for recreation, give the seniors and teens space right now, not in another five years or more.

I’ve studied ICRC’s plans extensively. They are calling for (direct quotes) a multi-million dollar world-class facility, 18,000 square feet, indoor gym, auditorium, heated indoor pool, a large teen center, huge lobby, exhibit space, classrooms, parking lot, handicapped parking lot, etc.

Any developer and civic planner (unless they have a personal interest) will tell you this size facility requires a full-time population of 15,000 people minimum to support it.

Has anyone checked the latest census on the Hill? And many are actually just part-timers. The realities of the market are going to hit their dreams.

Besides, in the community there is so much opposition that every step will be challenged. You’ve got the “tree huggers,” the naturalists, the people afraid their property taxes will go up, etc. The development will be challenged for years to come.

Most of my neighbors know nothing about this development. But they will find out. They came to Idyllwild for the nature of the place, for the quiet, for the trees. A few want the indoor pools and gyms and world-class facilities, but only a few.

The ICRC states this will be “the crown jewel of Idyllwild.” The jewel of Idyllwild is Strawberry Creek — its tall trees and the beauty around it. Look at what we locals call the “grotto.” Idyllwild Arts has preserved their side, just by putting down some wood chips and hauling out the dead wood and debris. I can find no greater spot of beauty, in all my travels.

Imagine a park, right in the center of town, right on Strawberry Creek. The vegetation could be glorious, just look at the uncultivated grotto. A playground for our kids, for picnicking, for summer concerts. It would become a landmark, a reason for visitors to return with their families over and over. What recreational benefit, and what gratitude the community would feel to its generous donor.

A simple solution, it would only take months, not years. By renting a commercial space, our seniors and teens won’t have to wait. And the beauty of the place, the large grove of trees, the adjoining Strawberry Creek, won’t be destroyed by all this building.

One other quick thing — a master plan. Don’t let them start the playground without a realistic master plan for the rest of the property. Most of the five acres will remain undeveloped, a home for transients and vandals.

Norman Cassen
Pine Cove