Public comment drives meeting

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Public comment drives meetingWith a light agenda and a duration of only about 45 minutes, the Ridgecrest City Council focused the bulk of its discussion at Wednesday night’s meeting on citizens addressing ideas and concerns from the public microphone.

Among those issues was the lack of city response to the IWV Groundwater Authority’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan, released this week. (See related story, this page.)

Other citizens addressed the accessibility of the Ridgecrest Skate Park, which was recently revamped by volunteers through a partnership between the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Sierra Sands Unified School District.

According to Richard Wagner, bikes have always been prohibited at the skate park, but the rule had been mostly unenforced over the nearly 20-year span of the park.

New signage posted as part of the recent efforts to modernize the park features a prominently posted prohibition of bikes.

“It’s unfortunate the rules are being enforced again,” said Wagner. “We should come together as a community and see if we can come up with something.”

He suggested that if the city could donate property, citizens might be able to coordinate a campaign to come up with funding.

Eric Catlin, who identified himself as a longtime advocate and user of the park, said that previous attempts to establish a separate park for bikes have been unsuccessful.

“I know that originally bikes were not allowed because liability insurance was more expensive,” said Catlin. However, he noted, California Assembly Bill 1146 leveled the costs of insurance for skateboards, bicycles, rollerblades, scooters and even wheelchairs.

He suggested that evaluating the new rules might be a simpler solution that building a separate park.

City Councilman Scott Hayman recommended that Wagner and Catlin approach the Quality of Life meeting and make a presentation. That committee next meets on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Peggy Breeden suggested that the city follow through with that concern to find out what accommodations could be made.

City Manager Ron Strand noted that the Desert Empire Fairgrounds had recently taken ownership of the motocross park. He suggested that bikes could be incorporated into that complex.

Norman Alexander also approached the council to make a request that the portion of Heritage Drive intersecting with Drummond Avenue be renamed to honor the contributions of late developer Jim Gregory.

Alexander said that Gregory’s development, Heritage Village, is widely acknowledged as the most beautiful neighborhood in the city. Decades after the Heritage Suites fell into decline, Gregory returned to the city and revitalized the complex, turning the suites into posh apartments now called Village Retreat.

The complex includes a pool, library, bike rental station, yoga studio and more, all beautifully and cohesively designed. Alexander noted that Gregory, in an attempt to bring the Heritage Drive entryway up to that same standard, redeveloped the stretch of roadway with new lighting, stonework and surfacing.

“Whenever I bring someone new into town, I take them to Village Retreat,” said Alexander. “You pull back there and you don’t think you’re in Ridgecrest, or the desert, anymore.”

He said that he believes renaming the street for Gregory would be an appropriate way to honor the late developer’s achievements in beautifying our city.

The council also met in closed session to discuss real estate negotiations. City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen said that direction was given to staff, but no final action was taken. The closed-session item to discuss the performance of the city manager was canceled before the session began.

The council’s next meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

Story First Published: 2019-11-08