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The City of Encinitas has been toying around with Hall Park -- a proposal for a 44-acre park with five lit soccer fields, two baseball fields, a dog park, and walking trails -- for over seven years. Since buying the piece of land for $18 million in 2001, the community has teeter-tottered on the impact the park would have on the nearby citizens of Cardiff.

Proponents have said the park is needed for youth leagues and the entire community to enjoy, while opponents have said the land should be used more passively, with hiking trails and open-space features.

Concerns have been raised over arsenic and lead contamination present on the site.

Recently, the city’s planning commission agreed with some of those issues, denying the necessary permits for the park and listing several changes needed to amend the plan.

On October 20th, the Encinitas City Council heard from the public on the appeal; 73 members of the public -- both for and against the current plan -- showed up. Two days later, the council reconvened to decide the park’s fate.

The potential lead and arsenic contamination was the first issue to be addressed by the engineers who performed the environmental impact report. They said that while there are some levels of arsenic and lead in the ground, they are not substantial enough to consider the site contaminated.

Councilmember James Bond agreed with the ruling. He referred to his experience as a field technician for a telephone company: “Back in those days, they used lead, and I would have to splice the lead wires. I used to chew on those lead shavings all of the time and occasionally someone would pat me on the back or I would cough and I would swallow those shavings. Well, the point is, I’m still here now.”

After hours of deliberation, the council decided to appeal the planning commission's denial for permits and proceed with the park’s initial plan by a 3-2 vote. Councilmember Teresa Barth and Maggie Houlihan were in opposition.

For more on plans for the 44-acre park, go to ci.encinitas.ca.us.

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