Dore Capitani’s Idyllwild Community Playground sign, installed Saturday, July 14, at the playground site. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

The newly built Idyllwild Community Playground is open to all and available for use by the entire community. Last week, three Idyllwild Community Recreation Council directors met and issued the following statement: “The Idyllwild Community Playground was built by the members of this community to create a safe gathering place where people of all ages will benefit. This will also be a public access playground that all people are welcome to enjoy and allow them to promote a healthy, active lifestyle outdoors all year round.”


The need for stating a policy arose after Town Hall officials posted a statement on Facebook stating they felt unwelcome at the site and would no longer take the Town Hall kids there. After much discussion of Town Hall’s decision on social media sites, ICRC directors met, formulated the explicit policy and approved it.

The confusion began immediately after completion of the playground. Town Hall summer camp counselors took local children to the new playground and several incidents occurred that resulted in Town Hall management’s decision to stop using the playground. On Monday, June 18, the day after it was dedicated, Town Hall summer counselors reported several exchanges that left them feeling uncomfortable.

ICRC directors Claudia Posey and Dawn Sonnier confirmed that Sonnier approached the counselors and questioned why no one from Town Hall had come to help build the playground. ICRC directors said they did not suggest Town Hall counselors could not bring their summer campers to the playground. Town Hall counselors confirmed that. But county recreation counselor Destiny Walton said the questioning made her and the other three staffers there that day feel both uncomfortable and unwelcome. Walton said questions were also raised about provisions for Town Hall campers’ trash.

The next day, Town Hall campers and counselors returned, this time bringing their own trash bags. According to counselor Christina Martinez there was another incident involving a young boy who was not part of the Town Hall group for which Town Hall was later blamed. Martinez said she walked the boy, who had had a bathroom accident on a playground slide, over to his mother.

Based on these incidents and others including a phone call from a local woman who complained about Town Hall campers leaving trash and a visit from a local man who claimed to speak on behalf of ICRC blaming Town Hall for the bathroom incident, Town Hall management decided to stop using the playground. Recreation Manager Amy Righetti noted, in posting the decision on Town Hall’s Facebook page, that many parents of Town Hall campers participated in the playground build.

In an email to the Town Crier, Posey addressed the growing tension, “I cannot give you any answers as to Dawn’s exact quote for the record but I can say that I was there that day, she did approach MARS [county recreation] staff and mention that it was a disappointment that Town Hall staff had not been part of the build. It probably came out more harshly than it was intended but never a threat or meant to stop them [Town Hall kids] from coming back. As far as the trash goes, I can honestly say that because it was the first day the park was open, we hadn’t thought about trash yet and when we saw the MARS kids with their lunches, all of us who where there began discussing trash cans and trash bags.”

Posey noted, “Fortunately the playground is built and it is ICRC’s intention to make sure that the community understands that no group or individual has the right to exclude any other group or individual from joining in the play.”

Sonnier said ICRC is still working on issues involving playground maintenance and trash pickup, including providing appropriate bins for recycling. She said that ICRC, at its August meeting, would draft schedules and specifics of playground maintenance and that between 10 to 15 thousand dollars will be set aside from money raised for the playground build to fund maintenance.

Sonnier recently wrote to 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone about these issues, and stated she felt it was unprofessional for Town Hall’s staff to discuss its decision on its Facebook page. Further, ICRC had invited Town Hall staff to a meeting to clear the air, but Town Hall staff did not attend the meeting. Stone wrote to Sonnier, “Because public money was used to fund the construction of this nice playground, it must be available for the entire public to use.” Stone provided approximately $11,000 to fund the Conditional Use Permit.

ICRC currently owns both the site on which the playground is built and the playground. The private land donor, Dave Butterfield, holds a reversionary interest.


  1. your right, I notice that negativity too. lots of emotional immature behavior. for example; why doesnt anyone ever mention how unprofessional it was that the county didnt know the town hall preschool didnt have a license? instead of wanting answers from the county and the town hall director, the townsfolk/parents publicly shook their fists and whined how mean it was that an anonymous person tried to ruin the poor preschoolers graduation by reporting it. huh? town hall: someone mentioned picking up trash etc. and that made you feel uncomfortable? the real world off the hill, you cant bring up that stuff on facebook and be taken seriously or more importantly expect to still have a job! things like safety and job security, are examples of problems worthy of sensitivity and in those cases you go to your supervisor and the county of riverside and THEY straighten it out . . act like grown ups not like the kids you counsel. Judy Schoenberg 's (sp?) letter to the editor suggesting folks not prematurly publicly finger point and blame but privately discuss concerns and work towards a solution was awsome. good to know someone up there is sane. way to go Judy!

  2. Dawn Sonnier is the President of the private organization that owns the private park. If she makes you feel unwelcome on her private property you probably should get the message. Claudia Posey (another ICRC Board Member) confirmed the incident and stated "she {Dawn Sonnier} did approach MARS [county recreation] staff and mention that it was a disappointment that Town Hall staff had not been part of the build. It probably came out more harshly than it was intended." Came out more harshly that it was intended? Did Dawn mean it in a nice and pleasant way? Hey Camp Counselors, since you didn't help build the playground you probably shouldn't bring the Summer Camp kids everyday. Give me a break! Before we judge the victims here let's all remember that Ms. Sonnier was speaking down to 18 & 19 year old Summer Camp Counselors. Who's the adult here? Yes, they probably don't have the "guts" that you have Mr. Idyll_biggots, but let's all try to remember when we were 18. The County has made plenty of people mad in this community with all their changes, but in this case they were right. Trying reading the article again with your mind open.

    • The only problem with your comment is that it does not matter who built the playground or who did not! If a person has a first child in 10 years from now and moved up here after the child is five, will this person be "allowed" to let his or her child play on the playground because this person was not here when the playground was built? Another thing is that a person is still a person (even if he or she is only 18). No person deserves to be talked down to. You are wrong in your comments and I hope you are not talking to the public that way also.

  3. SO glad that I copied and pasted PRESIDENT Sonniers reply to the facebook post: here's a copy for your reading pleasure-liar liar, pants on fire-
    "I try not to respond to negative criticism and slander but since my name was used I feel I must respond. I would never say nor did I tell, “one of the Camp Counselors to stop watching the Town Hall kids and retrieve a trash bag out of their vehicle so that the Town Hall kids didn’t leave trash in one of the four (4) park trash cans. Town Hall kids were ordered to take their trash with them when they left.” This is ridiculous and absurd and just not true! I also did not say that since the Town Hall staff did not help build that they cannot play there, that is preposterous! As for the other people in the post that are stated to be affiliated with ICRC, that is obviously not true as we do not have a male Board Member. Town Hall Administration and Staff, I would personally like to invite you to our next ICRC Board Meeting to discuss these issues in the proper forum, Tuesday, August 14th, 5:30pm at Creekstone Inn."

  4. I think that there is some confusion. First ICRC holds the title to the land and playground but that does not mean that it belongs to them. In the paperwork the land is donated to the community of Idyllwild. This does not mean that they own the land nor does it give any person the right to dictate who plays on it. I am also sorry but it sounds like the two or three women on the board are not as professional as we thought. I mean how they can forget to handle trash or setup a trash service is absurd. Then the community was blamed for their mistake. If the service was setup in the first place, this would not have happened. My question to the community of Idyllwild is– do we have the right people working for the community of Idyllwild? I myself have heard many people complain about the way they have been treated by these women and I myself will not partake in any activities they pursue.

  5. On another note– we live in Riverside County. Idyllwild is part of the county no matter what some people think. If the county has laws that the town has to abide by then that is the law. I do not understand why some people put their noses up and trash the county. I mean if you do not like the county then move to Big Bear. Big Bear is in San Bernardino County.

  6. It is past time that this town comes together, and heals. Let go of grudges, grievances, and learn from years of mistakes. Maybe it is time for a new volunteer group to help with discord, and compromise…Idyllwild Mediation. Let us try to resemble a "Community."