ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Above All, a Park for the Public

All things being equal, you would think that homeowners in the Dana Woods subdivision in Dana Point should be able to keep their four-acre park private if that is what they want to do. After all, they have paid $200,000 over the last 10 years to landscape and groom it. But all things are not equal: The builders of Dana Woods agreed 10 years ago that the county could give title to the park to a local government whenever it could afford to do so. And now it can.

Such agreements as a condition for permission to build anything at all are common in the county. There are a number of reasons, among them the shrinking amount of open space, not only in Dana Point, but also in communities throughout Orange County.

Other planned communities, such as Woodbridge in Irvine, maintain their own parks and officially limit access to residents. But Woodbridge makes no organized effort to keep outsiders away; besides, its parks were not created by the same legal terms as the one at Dana Woods.

At any rate, the county now has the money to purchase title to the Dana Woods park and the homeowners are plainly worried. Vandals have been visiting the park: Tacks were spread around the playground and a pipe bomb was set off in the swimming-pool area. Homeowners cannot be blamed for being alarmed for thinking that similar incidents might occur if the park is opened to the public.

But even for parks in planned communities, exclusionary policies set a bad precedent. Parkland is too scarce not to be shared by all.

Understandably, Dana Woods homeowners would like to keep their park the way it is, but they say that if the county insists on exercising its legal option, they would definitely prefer that it turn over the land to the city of Dana Point. We see no problem with that, as long as Dana Point shares the county's view that the park at Dana Woods should be opened for all to enjoy.

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