City Councilman Mike Feuerlast week announced his opposition to construction of a roller-hockey rink at the Studio City Recreation Center, where the proposed facility had sparked bitter debate about the suitable use of a residential park.
From Glendale, where opposition to a 26-acre sports complex prompted recent court action, to the dispute over Lindero Canyon Park in Westlake Village, public officials and neighborhood groups are grappling with the conflicting needs of homeowners and sports enthusiasts.
Opponents of expanded use of public parks cite noise, safety and traffic concerns, while those in favor of sports complexes point to the community need for safe, public venues for their kids' activities.
Should public parks expand to reflect the changing needs of their users?
Mitchell Thomas, member of Save the [Overused] Park, Studio City:
"Yes, parks can [expand], but they need to consider the concerns of the neighborhoods that surround them. They should not expand or change if the infrastructure of that park, such as the parking and traffic, is not adequate . . . Environmental issues need to be considered . . . There are no roller-hockey rinks in the middle of residential neighborhoods because it is a very noisy sport. Many families with kids, like myself, chose to live next to the park because we like the park environment. But there are only so many venues that can fit into a park this size."
James Fox, member of Studio City Organization for Recreational Enrichment:
"As the children of baby boomers get beyond the toddler stage, the public parks must expand their focus from sandbox playgrounds to organized recreation for older children and adolescents. In Studio City, we have only one park with a recreation program and it is underutilized for recreation . . . The proposed roller-hockey program would fill a vital community need and would impact our park neighbors minimally."
Kenneth Steele, president, Fern Lane Homeowners Assn., Glendale:
"[The idea of a park] is great, but the impact can't be on the neighborhood. You have to look at both sides . . . We're all for kids and sports, but if this [proposed] park in Glendale is going to generate 5,000 cars daily, that's a big change . . . [Officials] are calling this a community park, but it's really a regional park. They'll have tournaments that will bring people in from all over. We would like Caltrans to put in a freeway ramp near the site, and that is still an option. It takes compromising between the city and the neighbors."
Nello Iacono, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, Glendale:
"I think that generally parks should expand and be modified to address [recreational] needs. We have to look at the land uses and see if it's a workable situation . . . We're in desperate need of sports facilities in Glendale . . . We need to address the changing and consider the increased participation of women and girls in sports activities . . . Each of us in our communities needs to look at the changing demographics, and if the need is there, see if there are locations with existing facilities, or see if we should create new facilities."