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County Approves Equestrian Center, Sends Park Plans to Coastal Panel

March 02, 1986|JUDY PASTERNAK | Times Staff Writer

County proposals for the first neighborhood parks in Malibu--a public equestrian center and a permanent home for the Malibu Little League--will be considered by the California Coastal Commission next month.

The equestrian center, which would be in the hills above Zuma Beach, was approved last week by the county Board of Supervisors.

The Little League ballfields would remain at what has been their temporary home on bluffs overlooking the ocean, across Pacific Coast Highway from Pepperdine University. In December, the Coastal Commission rejected the county's plans for the bluffs, expressing concern that ballfields might not constitute the most appropriate use of prime oceanfront land, but commission staff and parks officials have negotiated a compromise.

Would End Search

If the Coastal Commission approves both projects, as expected, "this will end more than 10 years' worth of looking for community parks in Malibu," said James Park, a facilities planner with the county Department of Parks and Recreation.

Malibu residents have been pushing for local parks for more than a decade, Park said. "They were suggesting that kids were getting into trouble because they never had a place to go," he said.

Though state beaches are scattered along the Malibu coastline and thousands of acres of mountain land there are publicly owned, the residents "need places for kids to play on a daily basis," Park said. "Local parks, where you can play ball or have a picnic, are just as important as regional parks" that attract visitors from all over the Los Angeles Basin, he said.

But for years, the high cost of property in Malibu--and the scarcity of flat, usable land--kept the county from developing community parks.

Park said that neither the proposed equestrian center nor the ballfields would be on county-owned land.

The equestrian center would be built on surplus land leased free from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. The county has use of 20 acres east of Malibu Park Junior High School until 2021, Park said. The school district had planned to build a Malibu high school, but decided against it because of declining enrollment.

Malibu has no public riding arenas, though Park estimated that residents own hundreds of horses. The state and county have developed an extensive horse trail network through the Santa Monica Mountains that is planned to stretch for 200 miles.

The nucleus of the proposed center would be two exercise and training arenas. Parking for 60 to 70 horse trailers and cars would also be included. On weekends, organized horse shows could be held in the larger of the rings, Park said, but no overnight boarding of horses or rental stables would be permitted.

'Primary Use'

"It would be open from dawn to dusk. The primary use is as a community park," he said.

"This would also be a place where people could take their horses during a fire or a flood," he added.

The first phase of the project, which could be under construction by late summer and open by next spring, will cost about $480,000 in state and county funds, Park said.

The county hopes to add a clubhouse or small museum, small picnic area and children's play area, Park said. The second phase would push the total cost to more than $1 million, he said.

The Little League fields would remain on five acres of state land. The league's permit to lease that property, part of the 93-acre Malibu Bluffs State Park, was to expire in 1987.

In December, the Coastal Commission rejected a joint state-county plan that would have allowed the league to keep its three fields at the site. The panel expressed concern that local organized sports might not constitute the best use for what is regarded as a prime piece of property bought with $6.8 million of state taxpayers' money.

The bluffs also are the state's only piece of flat upland Malibu property within sight of the coast and near major transportation.

But the changes in the county's plans have apparently reassured the commission staff that visitors from all over the Los Angeles Basin will be able to use the bluffs for picnics and hikes at the same time local sports teams are competing nearby.

Under the original plan, the county's first priority would have been building bleachers, refreshment stands and irrigation systems for the ballfields. Picnic areas and trails on the rest of the bluff property would have been added later.

New Timetable

After meetings with Coastal Commission executive director Peter Douglas and staff analysts, the county has switched its timing, Park said.

The picnic and trail areas would be completed by fall, 1987, allowing all visitors--not just league players--to enjoy the bluffs, Park said. The proposed picnic area also has been doubled from two to four acres.

The ballfield improvement would be "at least a couple of years away," Park said. The baseball and softball diamonds would remain in their current condition. Its football and soccer field would no longer be marked and equipped with goal posts year-round.

Instead, after the schedules for the two sports end each year, the markings and goal posts would be removed and the public would be allowed to walk or picnic on the grass there. That would double the amount of picnic area in the rejected plan, from two to four acres, Park said.

"We'd do landscaping so the field would be more inviting to the public," Park said.

Little League President Patricia Paul was delighted with the plan. "That would be terrific," she said. "It would have been a real community problem if that area was taken away."

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