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Ventura County

Oxnard Reveals Plan for Park

Recreation: Proposal includes a farm museum, but an existing recovery center for alcoholic women would be evicted.


Oxnard officials on Monday unveiled a proposed $12-million makeover for College Park, an ambitious plan that includes new soccer and baseball fields and a farm heritage museum.

"It's everything we've talked about," said Gloria Postel, chairwoman of the now-disbanded College Park Advisory Committee. "I get tickled pink thinking about the [athletic fields], meandering paths, the kids' area and the museum."

The preliminary plan for the 75-acre park will be presented to the City Council tonight. The proposal comes after years of battles among groups over what types of facilities should be included.

Some highlights of the city's proposal include:

* A 12-acre dog park;

* A fenced skate park;

* A 26,000-square-foot community center with a gym;

* Fields for baseball, softball and soccer; and

* A lighted basketball area.

Still undecided is the fate of the Rainbow Recovery Center for alcoholic women that has been at the park for 17 years.

The city's draft plan calls for the Ventura County Museum of History and Art to occupy the two old farmhouses that the recovery center now uses. One of the farmhouses would be dedicated to the county's agricultural history.

The city plan also calls for a farm heritage area, which would include a caretaker's house, a blacksmith shop and a barn. The area would also include flower gardens, crop displays, a vendors' section and parking.

Dozens of recovery center supporters and Oxnard residents have voiced their support for keeping the center where it is, while many more residents and museum advocates have written letters asking city officials to support the farm heritage area, said Michael Henderson, the city's superintendent of parks and facilities.

Henderson said that when the county transferred ownership of the park to the city in 2000, language in the deed specifically stated that all land must be used for "parks and recreation purposes," which would exclude operation of the recovery center.

"As far as I'm concerned nothing is final," said Mayor Manuel Lopez. "We need to explore [the deed restrictions]. What would be the consequences? Is someone going to sue us? The county? Maybe they could be persuaded to keep the Rainbow Center. This is not a black-and-white issue."

The park plan is still in the preliminary stages, officials stressed. The city has just begun investigating ways to pay for the improvements, including tapping into a $2.6-billion state bond measure approved in March.

"We have been waiting for this park for 24 years," Lopez said. "We'd better do it right."

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