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Activist Sees Link in Election, Sports Center

November 22, 1987|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — At first glance, next year's mayoral election and a proposal to build a $2.2-million recreational sports complex may not seem to relate to each other.

But Rolland Samuelson, the president of Friends of Long Beach Parks, says he sees a connection--and he is thankful for the coming election.

Until recently, Mayor Ernie Kell led the efforts to build a complex on an abandoned 29-acre tree farm next to the El Dorado Nature Center. Although supported by many of the city's youth athletic organizations and others, the plan was opposed by environmentalists and neighbors. Last week, Kell said he has moved to appoint a Mayor's Blue Ribbon Task Force to look for alternate sites. He said he no longer considers the site next to the nature center to be the best one for a complex with four softball and three soccer fields, a jogging course, picnic area, an amphitheater and parking for 590 cars.

"This location for the sports complex does not seem compatible with existing land uses," Kell said.

Samuelson credits pressure from opponents for swaying Kell, who plans to run next year for the city's first full-time mayoral job.

"I don't think we've ever been in a better spot," Samuelson said.

Environmentalists and the area's homeowners, who said the complex would damage the nature center and clog surrounding streets, gathered more than 1,500 signatures on a petition and brought more than 300 people to a rally in October.

Kell said the election did not play a role in his decision. "I never changed my mind. I never firmly made it up," Kell said.

The mayor said he has asked council members Clarence Smith, Edd Tuttle, Warren Harwood, Ray Grabinski and Evan Anderson Braude to recommend who should be appointed to the task force. They represent areas in the city that need parks the most, Kell said.

Kell said he would like the task force to consider as a potential site the vacant El Dorado Park land immediately south of the police academy and shooting range off Carson Street. Once the task force is formed, it will hold public hearings and make a recommendation by January, Kell said.

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