On the other hand, the DSC is experiencing an identity crisis. In its more than 15 years of existence, the board has lost half its members, a $50,000 grant was spent on a consultant with little to show for it and it still has no building – not even an office or desk, let alone the grandiose Monterey Bay Aquarium-like center once envisioned by some.
In the meantime, the East Bay Regional Park District has stolen its thunder by spending millions of dollars to develop a park and trails along the Big Break Shoreline and is about to break ground on what it calls the Delta Discovery Experience, providing kayaking, picnic facilities, a playground and amphitheater near the park’s fishing pier.
Contributing to the identity crisis for the Delta Science Center nonprofit organization, the park district is planning to construct a building next year called the Delta Science Center on its Big Break property – and it’s unclear whether the Delta Science Center organization will have anything to do with the Delta Science Center building.
The park district is aware of the DSC’s interest in the building, but so far it has moved ahead with its plans for the building and other park facilities without the DSC’s input.
A meeting was scheduled yesterday afternoon between the DSC and the park district, the results of which were not available at press time but will be reported on at Tuesday’s Oakley City Council meeting by Councilman Bruce Connelley, who represents the city on the DSC.
At the April 4 council meeting, Connelley asked the council for input on whether the DSC should request office space from the park district in the science center building and whether the city should continue to be involved with the DSC.
Council members said the DSC should figure out what its purpose is and determine if a new working relationship can be established with the park district.
“We need to continue in some way shape or form, because it exists in our city,” said Councilwoman Pat Anderson, adding that because Connelley owns property near the Big Break shoreline, he might be perceived as having a conflict of interest regarding what is developed in that area.
Councilman Jim Frazier suggested that it would be better to have a city staff member get involved with the issue. He added that a time limit should be placed on whatever is decided and that a Plan B be developed in case that does not come to fruition so that the DSC doesn’t go another 15 years without much to show for it.
Mayor Carol Rios, who called her previous involvement with the DSC “a very unfulfilling experience,” said that after DSC members made a presentation at a recent council meeting, she was under the impression it had changed its mission into an educational organization rather than “a thing or an entity” with a building. “The whole concept of what the DSC was going to be, I think, has gotten lost,” she said.
Councilman Kevin Romick echoed that theme. “It appears that East Bay Regional Parks is moving right along with or without you,” he told Connelley. “They have a plan. This is what they want to call their Delta Discovery Experience. It appears that the DSC has kind of been left in the dust to squabble about why they aren’t being included in the park district plans.
“All I can say is that they (the park district) have spent a great deal of money. I’m impressed with what they are bringing to our community. I think it will be a great addition to our community. I think that before DSC goes any further, you have to sit amongst yourselves and determine what it is you want out of it. It might be sans the park district, without them.
“They are going to go wherever they want because they are spending all of the money. Which almost gives them the right to say, ‘This is my property; I’m spending all of the money. It’s my ball, it’s my sandbox; I’ll do what I want. And if you want to give me suggestions from the outside, I’ll listen but I might not go your way.’”
Romick said DSC needs to determine its direction, how it’s going to get there and promote that to the community to get more support. It should also consider developing a facility on other shoreline property, whether it’s owned by the city, the Ironhouse Sanitary District or the state-owned Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project.
Rios also said she’s concerned that the negotiations between the DSC and park district “not turn into causing East Bay Regional Parks to have a distaste for Oakley. So when you’re there … be very careful how you represent your city. I would prefer you to be just neutral. Listen to what’s said and bring back information.”
Connelley responded that he would not just be neutral: “I will be participatory. It’s part of being on the board.”
“Just make sure the board knows you are representing your own personal opinions,” said Rios. “Because you are until you bring it back …”
Connelley interrupted: “I do not represent my personal opinions; I represent the city.”
Rios responded, “Then be very careful in how you represent us.”
“Absolutely,” said Conelley. “And that’s why I called for this discussion.”
The Science Day at Big Break takes place from 10 a.m. to noon at the Big Break Shoreline park. Scientists will lead exploratory activities about the Delta environment, including dragging up silt and looking at the contents under a microscope. The park is near the end of Big Break Road on the right just before the marina.
For more information, go online to www.deltasciencecenter.com.