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A group of about 60 Sea Scouts and their leaders met at their home base, the OC Sailing & Events Center at Dana Point Harbor, for a candlelight procession to protest the privatization of management of the center, a move they fear could displace them. Photo: Andrea Swayne
A group of about 60 Mariners 936 Sea Scouts and their leaders met at their home base, the OC Sailing & Events Center at Dana Point Harbor, for a candlelight procession to protest the privatization of management of the center, a move they fear could displace them. Photo: Andrea Swayne

By Andrea Swayne

Upon learning of the intention of the County of Orange to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a private company/independent contractor to assume management of the OC Sailing & Events Center at the Dana Point Harbor, groups utilizing the center for sailing/maritime lessons and rentals, community group meetings, exercise classes, etc. are protesting the move.

Groups currently utilizing the facility, such as Westwind Sailing and the Mariners 936 Sea Scouts, have launched social media campaigns, including a petition, asking for help from the public with making their dissatisfaction with the county’s decision known to county leaders. The move, they contend, puts their businesses/organizations in jeopardy, as they believe a private company would be able to do with the center whatever it wants and could either remove them from the center or price them out of it.

Lisa Bartlett, Orange County Supervisor 5th District, confirmed the county is currently in the process of drafting an RFP that is seeking a company to manage the OC Sailing & Events Center building and grounds and the west side docks (on the Baby Beach side). The RFP does not include Baby Beach, docks on the opposite side of the Event Center, parking lots or the grassy park/picnic area.

The RFP is expected to go out to bid within the next 60 to 90 days, she said, to test the market for interest, and the move will likely be wrapped up within the next six months.

Bartlett also expressed concern with a large amount of misinformation going around and said that the county has a commitment to continue offering community serving programs at the Center.

“What many don’t realize is that the county has been subsidizing it in the amount of about $300,000 per year to keep it open,” Bartlett said. “When you take a look at the facility itself, it can definitely use some enhancements and I think the possible addition of a concessionaire or other services will enhance the business model so that it can operate with long-term stability … The county is receptive to listening to all the stakeholders as part of the process. The RFP will be a very fair process and we will keep our commitment to have community serving programs at the Center.”

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About The Author Dana Point Times

comments (6)

  • Since the creation of the Dana Point Harbor in the early 70’s, the Harbor Park has been a mecca for use by all the citizens of Orange County. The Harbor Park at the west end of the harbor consists of Baby Beach, two adjacent parking lots and three Cape Cod buildings on a mole surrounded by docks. Hundreds of persons daily use the Harbor Park campus to have access to swim, kayak, stand up paddle board, paddle outriggers and sail. Instructional programs in maritime skills are provided by the Mariner Sea Scouts, Saddleback College, the Outrigger Club, Westwind Sailing, JSerra Sailing, and Dana Hills High School. The rooms of the of the Orange County Sailing and Events Center are used by every conceivable community group including Sea Scouts, religious groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, Jazzercise, weddings and community celebrations.

    A few years ago the administration of the Harbor Park was removed from the County Beaches, Harbors and Parks department and placed under the newly created Harbor Department. Now it appears that the Dana Point Harbor Department is proposing to privatize the buildings in the park for commercial use. If this is allowed to happen, the park would be destroyed and the people of Orange County would lose a valuable access to the use of the harbor.

    The Dana Point Harbor Department refuses to include protections within this request that would prevent the private company from driving out these community focused organizations through increased rates, or misguided management practices. The refusal to include these protections threatens the continued existence of these organizations and their ability to provide these educational and recreational opportunities.

    Please sign our petition and the tell the Orange County Board of Supervisors, the City of Dana Point and the California Coastal Commission that you want them to: (1) direct the Dana Point Harbor Office to withdraw its intention to seek proposals on privatizing the OC Sailing and Events Center; and (2) direct the Dana Point Harbor Office to work in harmony with these organizations in order that they may better serve our community.

  • I have been the Skipper of the Sea Scouts in Dana Harbor for 40 years in the Harbor Park. If Lisa Bartlett issues an RFP, it will start the dissolution of the Park that opens the harbor to everyone regardless of ability to pay. Her contention is that since the RFP is only applicable to a parcel in that park, it will not affect the rest of the Park. I contend that the parcel in question which is used for community meetings and classroom instruction, weddings, sailing lessons and Sea Scout activities as well as storage of Sea Scout vessels and equipment is the heart and soul of the Park. I also question the validity of the $300,000 subsidy. To date we have only been able to see a four line financial statement. Parks are not meant to be profit makers. Even so let us see the total income and expense sheet for the total Harbor Park not just one isolated part. Lisa Bartlett claims that there is a large amount of misinformation going around. I disagree. It is clear that the RFP is the first step in the removal of the Northwest corner of the harbor from its historic role as a place where those who do not own boats might have free or relatively inexpensive access to the harbor.

  • As a [very] long time Marine Sciences instructor at Saddleback College and in the harbor I can help folks understand how the old Youth and Groups Facility came to be such a drain on the county.

    When the DPY&G facility came to be in 1983 it was humming with activities that allowed it to pay its own way. Saddleback contributed boats, Saddleback and others contributed instructors, each of the various groups contributed their share of maintenance or money and County maintained an office that marketed and coordinated programs and collected money. This consortium arrangement could draw from the community at large and even considerable amounts of grant money from the State boating and waterways agencies.

    Then a few years ago the Center was transferred from the Parks Dept. to the newly formed Dana Point Harbor Dept. who had no interest in any of that, only the part about collecting money. Programs deteriorated gradually as coordination became non existent. Some organizations did better than others as they picked up the slack, but county revenues decreased because they were no longer marketing and coordinating. So the DPHD began raising rates and failed to understand why groups simply bailed rather than pay more for less. Saddleback bailed when County wanted $80/hr. ‘overtime’ for a maintenance worker to watch TV in the office until we were done with class. That made no sense since we had always been required to put away our own chairs, tables, trash and lock the doors. Sometimes the worker didn’t even hang around. Other groups, like the CG Auxiliary boating safety programs, bailed for similar reasons. And DPHD never could understand the logic that without programs there can be no income stream.

    We, the Consortium of Stakeholders of the Sailing Events Center, would love to see the Center returned to the Parks Dept. After all, what we do is similar to what parks do; education, recreation, youth activities. We do not trust the Harbor Dept. because they have at various times assertively stated that there will be no guarantees that our programs will survive. We have no objection to discussing fair contribution but if a new developer says the new rates will be the commercial going rate and that is beyond what one of us is able to pay, that stakeholder is gone. If one of us falls we may all fall and as they say in the Sea Scouts, ‘Where one of us goes, we all go…’ and so we have united so that we won’t be picked off one at a time.

    To see who all we are and what we are doing please go to:
    I think you may be surprised to see what that is.

  • Mark Howe’s comments are excellent and provide a deeper understanding of what is going on with the Sailing and Events Center. He should send that letter to all concerned – the harbor department, all 5 County Supervisors, all 5 City Council Members and all 12 members of the California Coastal Commission!

  • I’m writing on behalf of the Stakeholder Consortium at the OC Sailing and Events Center (OCSEC) in Dana Point Harbor. Our Stakeholders provide public access boating education and recreation for free or at a very low cost to the community. Our group is composed of Mariner Sea Scouts, Saddleback College, Dana Outrigger Canoe Club, Westwind Sailing, Jazzercise and AA. Together we provide nearly 100% of the public access programming and each of our groups have been operating at the Center for a minimum of 25 years.

    Over the past 8 years, we’ve experienced significant changes at the Center which have made operations increasingly difficult and have resulted in a reduction of public access programs to a fraction of what once was available for the community. The recent release of an RFP for management of the Center has us concerned to say the least.

    OCSEC (formerly the Dana Point Youth & Group Facility), was developed with a tideland grant that was made with the understanding that the land would be developed for recreation purposes. The land was set aside October, 1977, and the Dana Point Harbor Youth & Group Activities Consortium, was formed to coordinate activities at the site and to advise the County on practical operations for all groups concerned. When the advisory board was organized, their first priority was to establish an “operational plan for organizing a marine oriented recreation program” and the second priority was to advise on “construction and operation of appropriate facilities.”

    Volunteers on this committee spent countless hours evaluating development and use of the facility. The Dana Point Youth & Group Facility opened on Columbus Day, 1985. The Facility is surrounded by extensive docking facilities to accommodate boats used for the many educational sailing programs.

    When OC Dana Point Harbor (OCDPH) acquired the Facility from OC Parks, the name was changed to the OC Sailing and Events Center with the following mission:
    The OC Sailing and Events Center’s mission is to provide sailing and water based experiences to our community while also hosting social and business events at our harbor location.

    As anyone can plainly see, OCDPH has fallen short of upholding its mission. And we, the Stakeholders, have been treated more like a burden to the county than partners in serving the community.

    The RFP was recently released. The terms required of the lessee are extreme and require the bidder to have very deep pockets. This rules out any possibility of our Consortium of non-profit and low-profit organizations from submitting a successful bid. Had the County really wanted the Center Stakeholders to succeed, it would have been more considerate when drafting the RFP.

    The County expects the RPF process to wrap up in the next few months. If the community serving programs at the Center are important to you, it is critical that you stand up and be counted. Numbers matter. Please take a moment NOW to like our Facebook Page and sign our Petition. Thanks for your support.

  • Several long time harbor operations have fallen due to the current climate in Dana Point Harbor. The tide of commercialism that has accompanied the change from a county operation to Dana Point has been traumatic at best. What the harbor represents to the people, a place of respite from the drive and commercialism in our county and state, conflicts with the eternal drive for more income. Dana point would be better served by focusing their efforts on improving their city’s image and growing a good commercial center at the top of the ridge. Growing a community of good local businesses, a real downtown and respect from the surrounding communities should come first, and having a great harbor and recreational facility would enhance that experience. The removal of the great picnic site by the Marine Center to replace it with a “Natural Environment” was a mistake and is an eyesore. Good intentions are often not enough.

    Raising prices NEVER increases use and participation unless some benefit is derived. But to date there has been no net benefit to the users of the harbor.

    Boaters have seen their parking usurped during the times when they would use it most.

    Businesses have been bullied out of the harbor, and others are being bullied today.

    The only image I have of Dana Point is one of a parody of the tyranny of the majority by the city, ignoring the needs of the entire community of the harbor, which includes San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Hills, and others.

    Speaking for myself only, the increases in slip rents, the changes in harbor environment, and the bullying caused me to give up my boat and stay away from the harbor. It sullied my life, and you will never be able to give that back to me or to the others who have suffered the same. But you can change your ways and understand that overseeing the harbor is not the same as running it. You are overseer’s of a treasure to the surrounding community. You chose this, now do it right. If you mess this up, it will be difficult to impossible to get it back.

    Les H
    Formerly of CPBYC

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