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By Mark Howe, San Juan Capistrano

As a (very) longtime marine sciences instructor at Saddleback College and in the Dana Point Harbor, I can help folks understand how the old Dana Point Youth and Groups facility (now the OC Sailing & Events Center) 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 the 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 county Parks Department to the newly-formed Dana Point Harbor Department which 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 paying more for less.

Saddleback bailed when the county wanted $80 per hour “overtime” for a maintenance worker to watch television 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 Coast Guard 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 OC Sailing & Events Center, would love to see the center returned to the Parks Department. After all, what we do is similar to what parks do—education, recreation and youth activities.

We do not trust the Harbor Department 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.” We have united so that we won’t be picked off one at a time.

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