County Sues Nonprofit to Protect Coast

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (CN) – The nonprofit Elings Park Foundation turned a 130-acre coastal property it bought with county grants into a mountain biking and BMX haven after promising it would conserve the land wildlife and passive recreation, Santa Barbara County claims in Superior Court.

     The county claims Elings Park held a bike-fest with hundreds of people and a beer garden on land it promised to preserve.
     The foundation is accused of using the 130.65-acres near State Route 225, to build a BMX “pump track,” bike jumps, obstacles, berms, rock gardens and soil retention systems.
     The construction demolished vegetation and left birds, lizards and other animals without breeding habitat, the county says.
     The county sold the land to the foundation in December 1993 and knocked $1 million off its $2.5 million asking price, because Elings Park promised to use it for passive recreation, such trails and ocean-viewing, and to protect wildlife, the county says.
     Elings Park got $525,000 from the Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund, which helps preserve the coast and monitor the harm it suffers from offshore oil and gas projects, according to the complaint.
     The county claims that it discovered in 2009 that the foundation “South Elings Park was the principal site for defendant’s organized downhill, Super D, dual slalom, and cross-country races, which brought hundreds of racers barreling down the steep slopes of South Elings Park throughout the weekend.”
     The bike-fests disrupt the area with loud music, beer gardens and parking for at least 60 vehicles, the county says.
     The county complaint that even after it told Elings Park that it was violating the sales agreement, the foundation refused seek a permit for its bike-fests and said it will continue to have them,.
     The county seeks a restraining order and injunction and damages for breach of contract and violation of restrictive covenant.

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