Local Government

The Tip of an Iceberg as City of Fullerton Takes Over County License from Bears

Google View of the fields at Clark Park

The City of Fullerton has officially taken over the county license of Clark Park Complex and will be programming all fields. The complex had been under a license between OC Parks and the nonprofit Fullerton Junior All American (Bears) – which should have been good through 2021.

But, the league was sent a termination notice in February that the permit would end effective March 3rd. Turns out they weren’t the only ones losing an OC Parks permit as the city gained one.

The Elite Development Academy Girls Soccer, another Fullerton non-profit sports team, had a permit with OC Parks from August 2018 through February 1, 2019 for field 5 of the Clark Park Complex. When the Academy went to renew its permit with the county in January, they were told that the City of Fullerton would be taking over programming at the field and they would have to talk to them about playing there.

After their permit was not renewed, Elite contacted Fred Jung of the Bears who still held a county license for the Clark Park fields at that time. The Bears gave Elite use of a field for $25 per session.

But, now that the Bear’s license with the county has been terminated,   “We have nowhere to play,” said Chris Hackett who founded the club in 2016.  “We are only one team of twelve 10-year-old girls and don’t take up a lot of space.”

In a one-day reprieve the Bears learned their fate at a meeting with county and city officials concerning the early termination of their license which appeared to be triggered by a series of accounting errors on the county’s part. But, oddly, correction of the accounting errors did not reverse the termination.

“It seemed that prior discussions had been held,” said Mr. Jung, “and that we were just there to hear the final decision.”

The meeting took place at the county offices on March 4, facilitated by OC District 2 Supervisor Michelle Steele, after District 4 Supervisor Doug Chaffee (who represents Fullerton and area on the board) failed to respond to calls from the Bears. Present were Mr. Jung, leader of the Bears, OC Parks Director Stacy Blackwood, City of Fullerton Parks and Recreation Director Hugo Curiel, and Chaffee’s assistant chief of staff (Chaffee was unavailable).

At the meeting, OC Parks Director Blackwood indicated the county was not interested in continuing to license individual teams at a yearly rate (the Bears contract indicated they would pay the county $9,540 per calendar year). The new license with the City of Fullerton requires no payment to the county but the city takes over the expense of all field maintenance, repairs, storage units, and trash removal.

Blackwood said she would get back to Mr. Jung about reimbursement of the investment of over $18,000 in improvements the Bears made to the previously dilapidated complex, including the permanent score board. Blackwood said OC Parks was willing to allow the Bears to operate through their spring season which has just begun.

However, City Director Curiel countered that plan saying that Fullerton City Manager, City Council and Parks and Recreation were not interested in taking over the fields if another group had priority. Curiel said soccer and softball teams want to use the fields and that the city was only interested in taking the park over if it can program it the way it wants.

Both the Bears and Elite originally sought, then District 4 OC Supervisor Shawn Nelson’s, help to get a county license of the unused fields at Clark Park because of the manner in which the City of Fullerton allocates fields. The city system in place gives priority to some sports groups over others. There are longtime complaints from other teams concerning the city’s preference for certain groups including the Rangers, the largest soccer league in Fullerton. This partly due to its access to choice fields and play time, according to other leagues in the city. The Bears are the second largest football league, Mr. Jung said, serving 600 players per season.

According to several team leaders – the city should be happy to have some city teams out of the Parks & Rec field rotation system. And why, said another, with all the road and infrastructure problems, is the city looking to take on the extra expense of field maintenance?

Conflict of interest issues thought to influence city field allocation decisions have been brought up previously and include that Sean Fitzgerald, Fullerton Mayor Protem’s husband, is a Ranger’s boardmember. Complaints of unfair treatment of community sports groups have a long history in Fullerton. A Mid March 2012 Fullerton Observer article “Is There a Level Playing Field in Fullerton? Not Everyone Thinks So” showed Rangers Soccer with the lion’s share of playing fields and choice playing times. And one of the points again brought up by local leagues at a council meeting several years ago was that many families can’t afford the high fees charged by most of the city’s preferred leagues (Example: Rangers $2,400 vs, Blue Stars $35).

“Everywhere you look, the big clubs are closing down the small community clubs to force kids to pay the big bucks to have access to facilities,” Elite founder Chris Hackett said. Based on continuing complaints and the recent situation with Fullerton’s takeover of the Clark Park fields, it appears issues are still unsolved.

City Parks and Recreation Director Curiel, and District 4 OC Supervisor Chaffee did not return calls for comment.

Those interested in commenting on this situation may contact the Fullerton City Council (Mayor Silva, Mayor Protem Fitzgerald and councilmembers Whitaker, Zahra, and Flory) by email to council@ci.fullerton.ca.us

The Fullerton Parks & Recreation Commission Meeting will be held at 6:30pm on March 11 at Fullerton Community Center, 340 W. Commonwealth. There is a public comment time where members of the public can voice concerns about anything related to Parks & Recreation in the city, including sports field allocations. Each member of the public wishing to speak may do so for three minutes. On the agenda is the appointment of a commission member to the Sports Field User Group/Appeals Committee. The Appeals Committee makes rulings on field scheduling grievances. The Commission Chair designates a Commissioner and an at-large group of interested individuals are selected by the Commission. Current Commissioners are Chair Gretchen Cox, Vice Chair Erik Wehn, Enrique Macias, Michael Savage, and Ayesha Hussaini.

ClarkParkBears

Bears playing at the Clark Park field.

 

 

Free Weekly Newsletter - Click Here To Subscribe Every Friday – Fullerton weekly hand curated round up straight to you inbox – weekend events (more Fullerton events in one place than anywhere else), news & more.

15 replies »

  1. Doug Chafee is too busy having Fund raisers, hosted by Jennifer Fitzgerald’s company, to get involved with the needs of the community. How do you spell “CORRUPTION”? The city of Fullerton makes our US Congressmen look like saints. This is not the first time the city of Fullerton is making backroom deals that limit the community’s access to City Parks. Just look what happened to Amerige Park. In the middle of all these scandals, who on the Council is the one common denominator???

  2. Chaffee is compromised? Big shocker! Fitzgerald is corrupt? Facts! When will Fullerton residents realize this entire city is built on backroom deals. Finally, we have a story that points that out. Oh, wait, this is probably the 100th story the Observer’s done with corruption at city hall. I feel for the Bears and this soccer team. Welcome to Fullerton! The city of raw deals. Learn it now kids so you are disappointed later!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. So disappointing that the Bears Family have taken care of this field and made it awesome and now they want to take it because someboy else has put in the hard work. Horrible people. Then they should come tell the kids they are losing their football home.

      • Wait? That’s what you got from this article? What a Mean Girl way to look at life. As if time, and the length thereof, somehow signifies ownership, stewardship or pride? So by your obtuse logic, if you just move into a new house, it isn’t home? Because there are entire industries built around this concept. Figure out what is empty in your life and fill the void. Don’t lash out at a bunch of volunteers and children trying to make a difference.

  4. The City has funds to expand Parks and Rec to assume County responsibility?

    This is absolutely ridiculous. North County gets screwed compared to South County concerning park funds and Fullerton can’t afford to fully fund its libraries, let alone its roads.

    Would love to know why we’re taking over more Parks responsibility when we can’t afford to maintain what we have. That seems really foolish.

  5. City of Fullerton is full of crooks, always has been. Just full of selfish imbeciles running the joint. We may have a 10 anniversary for this, and I can almost guarantee we will be speaking of this same matter in a different situation. It’s the way that City has been ran since the beginning. Word of advice, want a happy life stay away from Fullerton. I’ve been living in Orange County for 26 years, long enough to realize that Fullerton is ran buy selfish pricks.

  6. No one plays sports anymore. The largest complaints = sports are too expensive. So here are two sports teams trying to make a difference and change recent stats. It would seem that agenda would play across party lines and be a worthwhile ambition for Council: Fitzgerald, Silva, Whitaker and Zahra, and even “appointed” Flory – to get kids out of the house learning teamwork and valuable social skills.

    Leave it to politicians to screw even that up.

    The word politics is derived from poly, which is many and ticks, which is a blood sucking parasite. Explains a lot.

    Politics has no place in parks. Give these two teams the space they deserve so they can grow and continue to do the work no one else seems willing to do.

    Politicians talk a good game, but ultimately fail miserably at doing anything but keeping it status quo.

    Keep out of Clark Park Fullerton politicians. Fix our potholes and house our homeless.

    Do your jobs! or risk voters in our fair city removing you from office. Be very careful when it comes to messing with the kids of Fullerton. Parents will not forget.

  7. Hahahaha this is soooo Fullerton.
    How do you correct a county f*#@ UP? Let Fullerton take it over and in military terms FUBAR.
    Crooks! The lot of you!
    All crooks and cronies!
    Can never leave well enough alone. Have to suck all the air out of every good thing.
    Criminals! There is $$$$ involved! Follow the $$$$.

  8. Evil doers will meet their maker soon enough. They will have to answer for their crimes. Chaffee’s a spineless bum. The parks people who made these children homeless are scum of the earth. Getting anyone to step up and do the right thing in this city is like trying to nail jello to the wall. It is never too late to do the right thing. Mayor Jesus show us leadership and speak out against this.

  9. Saw this link on Facebook. Word is spreading about this observers. This is not right. Sean Fitzgerald is listed as the Fullerton Rangers treasurer on their site. There is a council member in Fullerton named Jennifer Fitzgerald. Any relation? You can connect the dots. That greedy monster angled to steal that park from those poor children so she can give another field to her husband’s soccer team. Ho w many teams have to be displaced before enough is enough? Track record for Rangers treasurers is pretty piss poor. The last one ripped them off for 350K. How much do the Fitzgeralds owe on their mortgage? Just sayin.

  10. Council member Fitzgerald? Mayor Fitzgerald. And yes that is her husband. Dots connected. And the rangers have probably about 30% Fullerton residents on their teams. But they get every field. Wow

  11. Can you say SH!!TSH@W

    The professionals at DON’T DO SH!!T have stolen a park from a bunch of kids and given it to
    The experts at DO AWFUL SH!!T so the mayor can have more soccer fields¡¿¡

    File a lawsuit and punish these idiots or they will keep pushing the envelope, keep making up rules as they go along to fit their needs, and move the line to their advantage.

  12. Wow I think this is so sad and So disgusting how you could do this to a group of kids who are just trying to have fun. And play sports. My kids have been playing for the bears for 5 years and my older son graduated from this league who plays football in high school and i still have a son who plays for the bears and honestly we have had the most amazing experience ever they showed my boys what a true football family is.but for you to take this away from my son and his friends is beyond sad and Disappointing now I have to tell my child this is what is going on. When personally I think the people that made this decision should be the one to tell our kids what they are doing SMH….. KARM IS A B and you all will get yours

Leave a Reply