A sketch of teens using the future center. Courtesy of the ICC committee

We’re getting a community center,” replied Chris Trout, when asked what do you want the community to know. She is the spokesperson for the reinvigorated and soon to be revised San Jacinto Mountain Community Center.

Following a thoughtful and reflective period, David and Lois Butterfield knew, “We have the same vision and the same passion,” as they did seven years ago when they donated property for a community center.

Lois, a former elementary school teacher and real estate broker, said in an email, “I am heavily involved in multiple construction projects and passionate about Idyllwild and the world of design.”

Now they have reaffirmed that decision and agreed to donate the money for construction of, what may be the first, community center facility on the property between Pine Dell road and Ridgeview Drive on Highway 243 — nearly five acres that they had bought and previously donated to be developed for the community’s benefit.

Originally the Butterfields had offered to match whatever funding the Idyllwild Community Center Committee raised by the end of December 2012. Committee Chair Bill Sanborn said they had several firm commitments, but “it’s not nearly enough.”

Dawn Sonnier and Bill Sanborn stand below Strawberry Plaza at the future entrance to the Idyllwild Community Center. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

David Butterfield said he and Lois were prepared at one point to invoke the reversionary clause in the original deed.

Yet, they were very impressed with the community’s response and contributions to the construction of the new playground on the site. “We were absolutely blown away and gratified that 700 people and local businesses joined together to provide tools, food and time” to build the playground.

Then they heard and read about attendance at the Summer Concert Series, which also takes place at the same site. They recognized how valuable the location is to the community.

Consequently, they felt that they should complete this initial challenge to the community and fund the first phase of the center. The initial sketches are for a building with several meeting rooms, a kitchen and rest rooms.

But the Butterfields are not simply erecting a building to be named the Butterfield Family Center.For several years, they had attempted to gain access to the ICC property from the rear, below Strawberry Plaza, along the creek.

Frustrated in this effort, they recently purchased the property from Isabelle DuBois. The principal entrance to the center will be from Village Center Drive, although another exit will be on Ridgeview Drive, adjacent to the Verizon property. Highway 243 will not used for access to the future center.

The new land and repositioning of the parking will preserve the view from the highway and provide more open space and green space along the highway.

Taken by the community’s love of music, the Butterfield’s gift will also include the construction of an amphitheatre on the slope facing Strawberry Creek.

“What it won’t include will be a gymnasium and swimming pool,” he said. If the community wants those facilities, they will have to raise the money for them,” Butterfield said.

The future community center will have separate activity rooms for seniors and teens. David Butterfield grew up in a small town and has experienced the lack of opportunities for teens to collect and assemble. Consequently, he hopes that a fully developed teen center will be one of the early additions to the Butterfield Family Center.

But their generosity will continue beyond the opening ribbon cutting. The couple plans to endow a trust fund to ensure the center’s operation for the first 10 years,

“We want the community to know there will be support to operate this facility after it’s built,” Butterfield said. Sanborn said the lack of a definitive plan for operating the facility had an affect on prospective donors. “We had commitments, but not nearly what we envisioned. Our dream was humbled by what we could afford,” he lamented. But now their dream has been revived.

All of this, a new entrance, parking, an amphitheatre and the center facility will be a gift to the community from the Butterfields. Overseeing its operation and possible expansion are the roles for the rejuvenated SJMCC committee. The new version will combine the current missions of the Idyllwild Community Recreation Council and the ICC committee.

Members of the new board will be Lois Butterfield, Bill Sanborn, Dawn Sonnier, current ICRC president, Janice Lyle and Robert Priefer. They will be responsible for the overall administration and endowment.

Lyle is the former director of the Palm Springs Art Museum and has led the California Association of Museums.

Under this larger umbrella, ICRC will be responsible for the recreation activities on the site. This will include fees for its use that will pay for the operation and maintenance of the facilities.

The use fees would cover the cost to the center for its use, similar to the school district charging for the use of its facilities.

Any deficit in the annual operating budget will be provided from the Butterfields’ endowment.

The other committee assumes the function of the ICC and will be responsible for future capital improvements and raising the funds for their construction. To date, the ICC group has raised about $375,000.

Moving quickly, the new committee has already identified its short-term tasks and hopes to meet later this month. First steps will include new bylaws and rules of governance for the committee. Meanwhile, new sketches of the facility, including the amphitheatre and parking sites, are being drawn. These will evolve into architectural plans, engineering designs and cost estimates.

Sanborn and Sonnier believe it’s possible to have a new conditional use permit approved in a year. This will be the door to begin construction sometime in 2014.