The battle over the fate of the continued Saturday during a rally to save the fairgrounds at in Scotts Valley.
Led by the Pajaro Valley Republican Club, around 50 attendees were encouraged to spend their money in support of saving the fairgrounds, which could go broke from heavy court fees if a goes to trial.
“You shouldn't have to fight for something that's been such a key part of our community for years,” said Charles Freedman, host who spoke at the event.
“Your support at the fair is critical, if you love the fair, this is your time to show it,” said Brian Mathias, Santa Cruz County Fairground board member.
The organization filing the lawsuit against the fairgrounds is the , a group concerned about the impact of fair activities on the surrounding creeks and neighborhoods.
CAFA members are pushing for noise restrictions, and surveys assessing environmental and community impacts from fairground activities. The organization is also concerned about improper waste disposal into Salsipuedes Creek, and noise disturbances to neighboring residents, CAFA member Max Kelley said.
The dilemma, however, is that fairground supporters worry that the very environmental and residential concerns expressed by CAFA members would ultimately affect the number of events and programs available at the fairgrounds–resulting in the loss of available funds, and eventually the fairgrounds itself.
“The money that's made with the fair is not enough to support the fairgrounds and facilities and the upkeep and everything all year around,” Freedman said. “And now you have this group that's come up and says, ‘Well we want a veto power, and we want item-by-item OK on any event that takes place at the fairgrounds.’ You can't have that.”
The basis of CAFA's lawsuit is on the California Environmental Quality Act, which allows certain organizations to categorically exempt events, basically allowing them to take place without any environmental-impact analysis. Kelley said fairground board members have wrongly claimed categorical exemption, which leads him to worry about the cumulative environmental effect that could result if this action becomes routine.
“There are a number of elements in the lawsuit and it's not just saying we're going to challenge your categorical exemption from environmental review, but it also says that you're not allowed to incrementally add events without environmental review in the long term,” Kelley said. “The big issue is with the cumulative effect, by the time you add one or two dozen events, then you have a significant cumulative effect, not just noise, not just dumping stuff in the creek, but traffic gridlocks that affect business.”
Although Kelley said that Salsipuedes Creek has and continues to be used for the dumping of animal feces, and could be affected from illegal runoff from fair activities, some fairground supporters believe the group is only referencing CEQA to leverage its case.
“The reason they are using CEQA to lodge their suit is because it's the only peg they have to hang their hat on,” Freedman said. “To attempt to depict the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds as some kind of environmental offender is offensive. This is an event that is more dedicated to promotion of conservation, promotion of sustainable agriculture, promotion of all of the things that environmentalists hold dear.”
Sue King, board member with the Heritage Foundation, which helps support the fairgrounds financially, said the horse shows do have an added impact on the creek, but that recent water tests have indicated cleaner water than past years.
Despite this, Kelley said CAFA's concern stems from the continued disposal of feces into the creek, and continuing runoff from fair activities.
“Regardless of what you're reading or of what’s coming and going in your property, it does not allow you to add to that, as a matter of fact it's prohibited. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality board says there's nothing allowed that can be added to that creek," he said.