MARINA — After a very long, often contentious meeting on Wednesday, the Marina City Council approved a concessionaire agreement with Chaparral Country Corp. of Woodside to provide recreation facilities and programs to the public at the Marina Equestrian Center Park in Marina.
Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Biala and City Council members Lisa Berkley and David Burnett voted to accept the agreement and to direct staff on a number of issues discussed including serving notice to current tenant Marina Equestrian Association to vacate the facility. Mayor Bruce Delgado and Councilwoman Cristina Medina Dirksen voted against the proposal.
Chaparral was chosen as the most qualified respondent to the city’s request for proposals in September 2021, besting Marina Equestrian Association and Fort Ord Equine Foundation. At that time, city staff was directed to negotiate the terms of a concession agreement, obtain National Park Service concurrence with the terms of the deal, further vet the financials of Chaparral, and return to the City Council with a concession agreement for approval.
Wednesday’s meeting lasted well past midnight with about 45 community members, many of whom spoke during public comment, staying throughout most of the proceedings. The meeting was focused on whether to adopt the resolution approving the agreement, authorize the city manager to execute the agreement on behalf of the city — subject to final review and approval by the city attorney — and direct staff to provide notice to vacate to the Marina Equestrian Association.
The 13.76-acre parcel of property at Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street, known as the Marina Equestrian Center Park, was conveyed to the city of Marina by quitclaim deed from the Department of the Interior through the National Park Service in April 1998 under the Federal Lands to Parks Program. The land was basically gifted to the city under this program.
But the land conveyed must be used in perpetuity only for public park and public recreation area purposes, and the Lands to Parks Program does not authorize the use for private purposes nor for the generation of revenue by any means other than by providing a service that facilitates public recreation.
According to city documents, if the City Council did not want to move forward with approving an agreement with Chaparral, the National Park Service provided alternate remedies to the city including voluntary reversion of Marine Equestrian Center Park to federal ownership, abrogation of the park-use requirements through sale of the property to the city at fair market value, transfer of the property to another governmental entity, such as Monterey County, capable of operating the site as a public park under National Park Service regulations, or involuntary reversion as a last resort, absent an adequate response by the city to the National Park Service request for a public use plan that meets the public recreation purpose of the conveyance.
The city submitted a program of utilization plan to the National Park Service, which was accepted in January 1998.
The Marina Equestrian Association entered into an operating agreement with Marina in early 2000 and ended in early 2005, but the organization has continued to operate on a month-to-month basis since that time. Though the land deed requires National Park Service approval as a concessionaire, the equestrian association has never received such approval.
When Marina updated the program of utilization for the Marina Equestrian Center Park in 2013, the National Park Service gave its conditional approval with the caveat that it does not consider private long-term boarding of horses to be a public recreational use of the site. Over the years, the most problematic use of the equestrian center by Marina Equestrian Association has been the issue of private boarding.
In 2017, the City Council unanimously voted to direct city staff to prepare and issue a request for proposals for a concessionaire to operate the equestrian facility at Marina Equestrian Center Park consistent with the 2013 program of utilization and direction from the National Park Service.
City staff has been working with Chaparral in negotiating a draft concessionaire agreement. It has used Keyser Marston to review the proprietary financial records of the company and has determined them to appear to be financially stable and have sufficient equity available to operate successfully as the concessionaire at the Marina Equestrian Center Park.
During this time, an effort was underway by community members to enlist the help of Rep. Jimmy Panetta in requesting the National Park Service reconsider its prior decision and direction to the city of Marina regarding long-term boarding of horses.
The National Park Service responded in July this year, issuing a final request and notice for the city to cure non-compliance at Marina Equestrian Center Park. The letter indicated that the National Park Service and General Services Administration must explore alternative actions to remedy the current situation at the park if the city does not move forward with approving the concessionaire agreement with Chaparral.
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