Bowing to public opposition, county parks officials have proposed a scaled-down version of their controversial plan to raise revenue by permitting commercial development in Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park.
The old plan, which critics from communities surrounding the park had referred to as a would-be "Disneyland amusement center," had called for a 220-unit apartment complex, shops, an aerial tramway, an amphitheater, a lodge-and-chalet complex and a restaurant in the 1,976-acre park, which lies within the city limits of San Dimas.
The revised plan, as described Tuesday by Ralph S. Cryder, director of the county Department of Parks and Recreation, keeps the lodge, chalets and restaurant, but eliminates the amphitheater, the tramway and retailing outlets. It also includes an equestrian training center, a picnic area and a nature center.
In place of the apartment complex, which had been eliminated in earlier planning, would be a nine-hole, par-3 golf course.
Cryder said the proposed facilities would bring in about $500,000 a year in additional revenue to the county. County officials claim that the park costs the county $2.4 million in maintenance expenses, while bringing in $1.1 million in revenue.
County Supervisor Pete Schabarum, in whose downtown office the new plan was disclosed Tuesday, gave it his support, describing it as a "dramatically revised" version of the old plan.
But opponents vowed to continue their fight, which has pitted local homeowners and the city councils of neighboring cities against Schabarum, a leading proponent of "privatization" of county services, and the Department of Parks and Recreation.
"Why take recreational parkland out of commission?" demanded Denis Bertone, co-chairman of the Coalition to Preserve Bonelli Park, a grass-roots group of about 700 residents of San Dimas, Pomona and other nearby cities. "Maybe we should be looking for additional parks." He cited figures from the Southern California Assn. of Governments projecting a 57% population increase in the east San Gabriel Valley by the year 2010.
Bertone, who said his group is prepared to fight the development plan in the courts, described the lodge-and-chalet complex, proposed for a forested hill overlooking Puddingstone Reservoir, in the western part of the park, as the worst part of the original plan. He said the proposed facilities would introduce commercial development into an unspoiled natural scene.
"That's the nicest part of the park," Bertone said.
Cryder described the proposed chalets as "rustic wooden cabins," of up to six rooms. The lodge would also be built in a rustic motif, he said.
Natalie Tschiedel, president of the Via Verde Homeowners Assn., complained that residents of the adjoining communities were already overburdened with traffic problems created by Raging Waters, a water amusement park in Bonelli Park. "It's almost impossible to get onto the 210 Freeway on the weekends," she said. "You have to wait in line in bumper-to-bumper traffic."
Critics added that there were no assurances from the county that there would not be additional development in the future. "If we agree to this, they'll just come back with something else" in the future, Tschiedel said.
Asked if the county had further plans for the park, Schabarum said, "If there is, it will involve going through the same process again."
Cryder said that, even with additional facilities, only 28% of the park, or 561 acres, will be developed. "That includes 190 of golf course," he said.
The San Dimas City Council has set an Aug. 21 public hearing on the revised plan. "My gut reaction is that the council will oppose it," said Councilman Curt Morris.
Schabarum has been a leading advocate of making county services pay for themselves. But he said Tuesday that he did not expect Bonelli Park to "achieve a revenue stream that will pay for the total cost."
Bertone said, however, that the county's cost analysis was unnecessarily one-sided. He said Cryder's figures did not include revenue from the park's existing 18-hole golf course.
Cryder acknowledged that the golf course brings in about $300,000 a year, which was not factored into the park's total revenue.
"We can't do it that way," he said. "The golf course is part of a 20-course county system. Those revenues are not earmarked for a particular golf course." He said that revenue from the existing Bonelli Park golf course was figured into a separate "enterprise system" of golf courses.
The plan elicited some support from members of a citizens advisory committee, organized by the county last fall to help revise the first plan. Committee members Bill McCready, a city councilman from Claremont, and Robert Neher, a former councilman from La Verne, said they were pleased with the modifications.
"I think it's very creative," said Neher. "It's a good compromise."
Cryder said that there would be a 30-day period for public comment on the revised plan, which will probably be presented to the Board of Supervisors late in the year. He said that, if planners are successful, the new facilities would probably be in place in about five years.