Park Friends ‘far from polarizing’

Advisory Board member calls FoBP ‘dedicated, honest and compassionate’

The executive director of the Chico Creek Nature Center, Tom Haithcock has been a resident of Chico, on and off, since 1976. He is an advisory board member for the Friends of Bidwell Park.

More on the matter Please see Letters and In My Eyes for other responses.

Many people in Chico appreciate Bidwell Park’s beauty and recreational opportunities. Fewer recognize the impact it endures from increasing community use. Despite local efforts to “go green,” too many still treat public parklands poorly, operating with a sense of entitlement that degrades the natural setting and diminishes nature-based recreation experiences for others.

Fortunately, Chico is blessed with organizations that encourage us to be better stewards of our shared recreational environment. Take the Friends of Bidwell Park (FoBP), for example. They have volunteered thousands of hours mapping trails, leading field trips, removing invasive species, offering biological expertise and education, and providing park updates for the citizenry.

FoBP worked with the city to hire a volunteer coordinator, resulting in even greater community involvement and park benefits. Recently, FoBPer Susan Mason received the mayor’s award for exceptional city service. Susan works tirelessly in Bidwell Park and contributes valuable input on its management.

FoBP also works integrally with other groups with common missions relating to park stewardship and sustainable recreation. They also defend a notion dear to the hearts of Chicoans: Upper Park should be protected from intensive development and unsustainable uses.

Yet, local media have maligned FoBP’s efforts and misrepresented their mission. False statements about lawsuits, suggestions that they view the park as a “preserve” and other rhetorical ploys have been used to cast them as an enemy of all wanting to “simply play” in the park. Nonsense.

Far from polarizing, as a CN&R editor suggests, FoBP worked with stakeholders, the Park Commission, and City Council to resolve the disc-golf dilemma. Their efforts helped secure a unanimous Park Commission vote for an alternative that could help resolve the issue of environmental damage at the Highway 32 site. The City Council endorsed this recommendation. I call that consensus building, above the fray, for the common good.

In 19 years of working with local community organizations, I’ve never been more honored to work with a group. The nonprofit group remains dedicated, honest and compassionate, despite attempts by some to vilify them.

Last week, CN&R’s editor, who doesn’t seem to understand FoBP’s mission, suggested that The Friends change their name and focus to reflect “broader park interests.” I can assure you that FoBP is doing just fine as is, but always welcomes others to help. I wonder if the paper would consider a similar request from its readership to reorganize its editorial staff to be more reflective of our community’s views?