Thursday afternoon, July 28, several local citizens approached 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone, who was in town for his monthly meeting with Hill residents, to discuss the county’s decision to cancel its recreation management contract with the Idyllwild Community Recreation Council (ICRC).
Stone agreed to meet with them later that afternoon and at about 4:30 p.m., nearly a dozen people came back to continue the discussion from Wednesday evening’s special County Service Area 36 meeting about recreation.
“I heard about the meeting last night [the special CSA 36 recreation meeting] and I wish I could have been there,” Stone began. “What you hear coming out of his [Bill Brown, the county’s manager for County Service Areas (CSA)] mouth is really me speaking.”
Stone adamantly stated that he would not change his decision and asked the people to give the county time to demonstrate what it can do and how that might be a better recreation program for the entire community.
“The first task will be preparation of recreation master plan,” Stone said. “It will be comprehensive and look at all age groups and look at all facilities. Town Hall is in disrepair and it will take money — more than the special tax — to fix the facilities.
“I expect recreational opportunities for everyone in the community,” he added. “It needs to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We’re not coming in to dismantle but to make it better.”
“If we heard these reasons before Bill’s presentation, at least 50 percent of the issues might have been avoided,” said Nancy Layton. “We heard it was your decision, and didn’t’ hear it from your mouth.”
While some attendees were pleased to hear Stone speak directly to the issue and were willing to give the county some time to meet the promises, others left feeling no different than Wednesday night. They remained skeptical of the reasons and doubtful that the county could produce what it’s promising given its own financial doldrums.
Josh Whitney told Stone he didn’t think the community could give him six months because the change was occurring in summer. “The worst time of year because of the limited outdoor opportunities,” he stressed.
Other questions were asked about the future of the ICRC employees and the manner in which they were informed of the change. Both Stone and Brown stressed their intent to employee local residents. Stone also expressed regret for process and said the county will learn from this situation.
Brown said he is continuing to seek local applicants and specifically said he would like to hear Danny Richardson’s (who was present) interest in continuing to serve the community.
Other questions were raised about the future of the skate park, the condition of Town Hall and the relationship Pine Cove and Mountain Center residents have with the recreation program.
With respect to the physical conditions of Town Hall, Brown said he could not promise what would happen there until it had been inspected. He does have contingency plans, but doesn’t want to discuss them unless needed. For example, it might affect his leverage to rent a different facility.
“You’ll see more money come into this town than goes out,” Brown said. He intends to seek a variety of grants to help fund programs for different cohorts, but stressed, “We have to have the partnership of the community.”
“EDA is the ‘get it done’ arm of the county. My track history is I’ve delivered on everything I promised to the community. I’m not back tracking now,” Stone said near the end.