Fact and fiction

When the Chico City Council takes up the issue of additional funding to complete the Bidwell Park Master Management Plan and accompanying environmental-impact report at its Tuesday (Sept. 18) meeting, it should first try to separate fact from fiction.

There’s been a lot of the latter flying about since Aug. 14. That’s when the city’s General Services director, Dennis Beardsley, sent the council a memo stating that another $100,000 was needed to complete the plan, which already has cost nearly $500,000.

Beardsley suggested that his biggest concern was a comment letter received from the legal counsel of the group Friends of Bidwell Park, which opposes the disc-golf courses included in the plan. “A comment letter submitted by a law firm may bode of a potential legal challenge to the adequacy of the EIR,” he wrote.

He went on to state that the additional money would be used for reviewing and summarizing comments, preparing responses, making necessary edits to the draft plan and draft environmental-impact report, drafting CEQA findings and staff time—as well as potential review by outside counsel.

But, to judge by the huffing and puffing that ensued, all the 100 grand was going to legal fees, the possibility of a lawsuit had become a certainty, and Friends of Bidwell Park was at fault.

“With ‘friends’ like Friends of Bidwell Park, who needs enemies?” read one of several hostile letters to the editor of the Enterprise-Record. “Lawsuits fly, for no good reasons,” read the headline on an Aug. 30 E-R editorial, although no lawsuit had been filed.

Hiring an attorney to review a legal document does not imply a lawsuit is forthcoming. It could be just an effort to create a better document. Besides, as Beardsley wrote in his memo, “staff believes the environmental review conducted to date is sound and defendable.” Why, then, does it need further legal work? This, too, the council will need to determine.

We don’t agree with Friends of Bidwell Park about the disc-golf courses, but we appreciate the group’s work and don’t like to see it vilified without cause.

From what we can tell, the master plan and EIR need work on several fronts, not just the legal front. If they have been poorly done, blame the people who wrote them (and were paid $500,000), not those who submitted comments.