Festival organizers set sights on rec center hours

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A group of Lemon Grove residents are organizing a festival in the hope of gaining more public access to the city’s recreation center.

The inaugural Citrus Festival is scheduled for July 9, from 3-7 p.m. at the Lemon Grove Recreation Center, 3131 School Lane in Lemon Grove.

Citrus Festival team lead for media and sponsorship Jessyka Heredia said the goal of the Citrus Festival is to raise funds for programs and activities at the center, as the center has been closed to the public for 12 years.

“We have been asking for this in public comments at council meetings and we were not really getting serious attention from the council,” she said. “They just kind of sluffed it off as unimportant. But the more that we pursue it, the more they must hear us. We decided the best way to do that is to raise money on our own to basically get equipment and provide some access to the rec center. Even if it is a small level, just on the weekends to start.”

Heredia said that in creating the Citrus Festival they did get some help in organizing it from Lemon Grove council members Jennifer Mendoza and Liana LeBaron.

Lemon Grove City Manager Lydia Romero said she thinks there is a misnomer that the recreation center is closed.

“It has not been closed, it has never been closed,” she said. “It has always been available. In fact, right now we have day camp all summer from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday until school restarts again. There is a weekend program that happens during the school year called Pee Wee Sports that is done by a gentleman who runs his own pee wee sports camp. It is often used by Liberty Charter High School during the week when they were in town for their sports leagues. It was often occupied after 3 p.m. because it is a joint use with the school district. So, Monday through Friday it cannot be programed during school hours or when school is in session.”

Romero said although Liberty Charter is moving to Alpine, it has requested to use the gym again, so the city is in discussion with them, and a decision has not been made.

“So, in the 12 years, it has not been closed. It has been utilized for youth activities and youth sports. We do rentals on the weekends for multiple groups such as Tae Kwon Do and karate tournaments. It is used for basketball tournaments, volleyball tournaments,” she said. “So, the center has been utilized as it is intended to be utilized.”

Romero said that the group saying it is closed is “not telling the full truth.”

“It has been very active and utilized heavily,” she said. “During COVID, it was used for our weekly food distribution. We used the center to do education camps when schools were closed to ensure students had the ability to have free Wi-Fi and do school virtually.”

“The only thing that I can surmise is that the group is looking for a 1960s, 1970s model of a drop in center for youth,” she said. “Those centers do not exist in any community. That kind of model has been assumed by Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, or Y Sports, for those types of drop-in centers. But that has not existed since Proposition 13 in 1975.”

Heredia said the Citrus Festival is new, but they hope that it will become an annual event to continue raising money for the recreation center. She said this festival has everything to create a family-friendly event.

Heredia said they are looking for more sponsorships, and there are several sponsorship levels, but they are willing to take any level of donations.

Festival organizers set sights on rec center hours

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