Carson City resident Roland Westergard went to Carson High School on Monday with an open mind.
He has a "long-standing interest" in the issues surrounding Fuji Park and the city fairgrounds and wanted to see if anything presented in the first community workshop would change his mind.
"Everything provided here doesn't change my mind about what should be done," Westergard said. "It confirms my belief: Fuji Park and the fairgrounds should be retained in its present state and money should be used for that purpose."
Westergard said there are alternatives to the city's economic situation which don't have to include selling the city's fairgrounds.
"You cannot replace that, at least in the form that it is now," he said. "You can't replace it at all. The people spoke on Question 18 on the one hand. On the other hand, this would render it ineffective. Open space should be preserved for the present and the future."
Carson City officials are hosting three days of community meetings this week, hoping to gather comments from Carson City residents as well as explain why they think the fairgrounds is suited for development. Comments from the meeting will be compiled, and the entire issue of development at the fairgrounds and park should come to a head at city supervisors' Aug. 2 meeting.
City officials were joined by members of the Concerned Citizens to Save Fuji Park and the Fairgrounds, a local group circulating petitions which propose a law change to protect the area from development.
Butcher paper with explanations written in colored markers joined official-looking graphs and engineering designs on city displays. On the other side, 4-H youth waited with their leaders and other park preservations at a display noting why the fairgrounds shouldn't be relocated. Like oil and water, members of the two groups mixed but not for long.
About 50 people attended the open house Monday.
Tom Henderson looked at a large, aerial view of the capital, pointing out various large parcels of South Carson land that could be developed. City officials cite development pressures in the region as a reason to propose development of at least the city's fairgrounds.
"It seems like a blatant, opportunistic way to develop open space," Henderson said. "It should be preserved. They're succumbing to development pressures and starting to act like a business and not a government for the city."
City Manager John Berkich admitted selling the fairgrounds would not be a "silver bullet" which would solve all the city's financial problems. However, it would help "maintain Carson City as the commercial center of the region."
Various national retailers and major shopping center development companies have contacted the city about potential development at the park, he said. He declined to name them.
While city officials said they heard a variety of opinions from people, Concerned Citizen group members said most people looked at city displays and then came and signed the group's petitions.
"We're hearing this is horrendous. 'Ridiculous' has come up more than once," said Susan Hoffman.
Concerned Citizen member Jon Nowlin said many people said the city's presentation is "smoke and mirrors."
"They think no matter what the residents have to say, the city will do what it wants," Nowlin said. "There is a lack of confidence in our city government."
Berkich plans to be on hand at each community meeting to personally answer any questions Carson residents can come up with. Monday most people asked where the fairgrounds would be relocated, he said.
"That decision is dependent on whether the Board of Supervisors would want to relocate it," he said.
Berkich noted potential relocation sites could include Edmonds Park and other east Carson sites owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
If you go:
What: Open house discussion on the Carson City Fairgrounds and Fuji Park
When: 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., today; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday
Where: Carson High School Senator's Square, 1111 N. Saliman Rd.
For information, call 887-2100