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Protesters gathered at the OC Sailing & Events Center on Thursday to protest the county’s issuance of an RFP for the privatization of management at the facility. Photo: Eric Heinz
Protesters gathered at the OC Sailing & Events Center on Thursday to protest the county’s issuance of an RFP for the privatization of management at the facility. Photo: Eric Heinz

By Eric Heinz

A collection of nonprofit operators and citizens protested Thursday at the OC Sailing & Events Center in Dana Point Harbor against Orange County’s solicitation for a private operator to run the facility.

People at the protest said if a private operator takes over, they fear rents will be raised making it unaffordable for the nonprofits to continue to operate at the center, effectively phasing them out.

Raising public awareness to keep the OC Sailing & Event Center areas affordable and as available for public access as possible was the main theme of the protest.

Diane Wenzel, the executive director of Westwind Sailing and a marine science professor at Saddleback College, said her organization serves about 10,000 to 15,000 people a year who attend programs, such as sailing, adaptive boating, corporate events and more.

“The programs that we all provide are low-cost or no-cost,” Wenzel said. “We don’t generate major income for the Harbor. If a private company takes over, they’re going to have financial obligations to take care of the center that has been largely ignored for a long time and need a lot of work. In the interest of them turning a profit and being able to pay a rent that is going to satisfy the OC Dana Point Harbor, (we believe) they’re going to have to (raise rates) to be able to make that happen.”

According to the county’s request for proposal, the operator would be responsible for maintenance; however, the proposal also requires the operator to provide programs and events similar to the groups’ that protested and for those programs to be available to the public.

The bidding for the RFP ends at 4 p.m. on Jan. 22. The question and answer end date is at 4 p.m. on Dec. 28.

The groups opposing the RFP have started a petition, “Save the OC Sailing and Events Center,” on www.change.org that had more than 3,300 supporters as of Thursday afternoon.

 

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comments (1)

  • 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 surrounded by docks. Hundreds of persons use the Harbor Park campus daily 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, 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.

    Please write today to the Orange County Board of Supervisors and tell them to keep the Harbor Park available for Mariners Sea Scouts, Saddleback College, the Outrigger Club, Westwind Sailing, JSerra Sailing, Dana Hills High School and other youth and community groups, and please sign our online petition: http://chn.ge/1RNinSo

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