Friends’ umbrage

Reaction to last week’s column (“Friends or frenemies?”) went pretty much as expected: I got some casual kudos, but the piece didn’t go over so well with Friends of Bidwell Park.

A couple responses appear in Letters. Tom Haithcock, a member of the FoBP advisory board, needed more than a letter’s length to address “so many untruths and distortions,” so he asked for the Guest Comment space—“the community deserves it,” he e-mailed.

It may surprise some occasional readers, but I welcome dissenting opinions. The commentary that was pre-empted, in fact, is a virtual photographic negative of my view on Walmart. (It’ll run next week.) Contrary comments run all the time.

Ordinarily, I treat each Guest Comment submission as if it were a column. I play devil’s advocate and ask for clarification if something raises a question. Ultimately, the words are the writer’s; I simply avail him/her of the same editing process other opinion pieces go through. The goal is to make each commentary as cogently argued as possible.

Mr. Haithcock declined this offer. He’d send his piece; either I’d run it or I wouldn’t. I didn’t find anything libelous, and it fit the space, so what you see is what I got.

Had he welcomed my input, I’d have pointed out just one thing, though it’s a biggie: He seems to have misunderstood the point of the column to which he objected at length.

I did not call for the Friends of Bidwell Park to change the organization’s name or focus.

The Friends can call themselves whatever they please. They can take whatever stances they wish, and express their positions with whatever degree of clarity or ambiguity they wish. As I wrote, “the members of Friends (like all citizens) have the right to individually or collectively express their opinions, as well as pursue legal avenues to forward their agendas.”

What I suggested is the creation of another group entirely—Chicoans who love the park but don’t necessarily love FoBP. To wit: “What I’m wondering is whether friends of the park might come together under another name, with a friendlier approach. … I can think of a few former park commissioners who’d do well as organizers. There’s a pool of energetic, engaged park users to draw from….”

Mr. Haithcock is welcome to his opinion. I just want to make sure mine is clear.

Self-correction: Along with comments for publication came a request for retraction of the phrase “opposition to paragliding coming from Bidwell Park Friends.” The published letter from FoBP President Josephine Guardino summarizes why she takes exception to that assessment.

I’d formed my conclusion from a string of things, starting with her letter to the CN&R last September (to which she refers in this week’s letter). She wrote: “Chico’s Municipal Code (section 12R.04.250) explicitly prohibits hang-gliding and/or paragliding within the boundaries of any city park or playground. Surely there is a purpose behind such regulation.”

I read that as support for the prohibition; she says it’s an inquiry. I read the list of questions in FoBP’s comments on the environmental assessment as concerns; she says they’re inquiries. No Friends spoke against paragliding at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, where the activity got approved, and no outside communication with council members was disclosed.

Other factors influenced my conclusion, but—bottom line—since my connecting of dots created a picture that could be drawn differently, I am not as comfortable with the statement as when I wrote it. I’ve amended the online version accordingly.