Many residents were alarmed as they watched preparations for fencing along the playing fields on Cambridge Avenue. The playing fields have been open space for decades although they are actually property of West Hills College.
The field has been home to the annual WHAMOBASS Hot Air Balloon Festival, the Elks annual Easter Egg Hunt, Relay for Life, and many groups who practice soccer and other field sports. Family groups have played catch, fetch, football, and flown kites, practiced golf and many more things. But those activities will have to take place somewhere else.
“I know it’s change for the community and perhaps the timing is off this project, I apologize for that. No one likes surprises. We should have informed you in advance of the start,” wrote Dr. Stuart Van Horn, WHCCD Chancellor in a statement released Monday evening.
“The fencing project has been in the works for several years and began about the same time we revised and the board updated our facility use policy and procedure but was prioritized in the normal approval cycles this year by the campus planning committee.
“Often lost in the conversation is despite the variety of historical uses, which will continue, the area supports athletic and numerous instructional programs. It’s literally an educational teaching lab and should be supported at same levels as science labs or computer labs. Thank you.”
The fence initiated quite a lengthy conversation on social media.
“I am not sure what the rules are” wrote Jerrika Pizzaro. “But I have been working in Clovis for the last few months. Sometimes I have to stay out there so I go on runs and see all the opportunities people have out there to be active. There are parks every few miles, schools keep their campus open so families are out playing tennis, basketball, soccer. You name it. There are trails so you can bike ride or blade. It seems so simple yet offers such an abundance of wealth for the community.
“Here we get any sign of green grass and it is quickly fenced up and has restrictions. It’s sad.In terms of liability, there must be a way to be safe and be covered as a business/ school. I can only assume since it is working fine in a community nearby. Maybe the people who make these decisions should reach out to neighboring communities and ask for recommendations and ideas. We can be better than this.”
One writer mentioned growing up across the street from the field and the good times they had. “When I lived across the street. They actually had a 9 hole (golf) practice field there. No actual holes. But T post with numbers and shaved grass under the post.”
The fields are owned by West Hills Community College District. Little by little, the empty space has been utilized and fenced off. This was the last remaining free green space at the college district’s Coalinga site.
The City of Coalinga does not own the fields. The City of Coalinga also does not own the recreation areas on Cambridge Avenue, including the dog park. All of those spaces are owned and managed by the Coalinga Huron Recreation and Parks District. The funds used to manage those areas are not in any way connected with City funds.
For those who are concerned with the state of the unfinished “Dog Park,” it may be pleasant news to hear that the existing park will be revitalized with funds from bonds passed two years ago. Questions and concerns with issues at the dog park should be addressed to CHRPD: 935-0727.