When the Kern County Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-0 in late January to approve the county's master plan for Hart Park, it was made clear the vote came with a caveat — the understanding that preserving the park's Depression-era adobe house was a significant concern for many.
The adobe structure, a former park ranger residence sometimes called the "Peacock House" for all the peacocks that live nearby, was slated for demolition in the master plan, but by the end of the January meeting commissioners and members of the audience appeared satisfied that county staff understood the depth of their concern and that the plan to demolish would be put on hold.
"We were given the impression that they were going to work with us to save the Peacock House," Commission President Kathleen Chambers said Thursday. "That understanding was my basis for voting yes on the park plan."
That's why Chambers said she was taken aback when the county's Chief General Services Officer Geoffrey Hill indicated at Wednesday night's meeting that the county plan to demolish the house remained in place.
He used the term "demoed," said Marion Vargas.
"He said it very clearly," she said. "It was so definite the way he said it.
"People care deeply about that little piece of history at Hart Park. It's one of the only pieces of history left at the park."
Reached by email Thursday afternoon, Hill indicated he did not have time for an interview, and left a single sentence in response to a question about what he told the commission Wednesday.
"The Hart Park Plan (has) not yet been presented to or approved by the Board, so no decision has been finalized relative to any of the improvement plans at Hart Park," Hill said in an email.
Third-District Supervisor Mike Maggard, who has been protective of the old adobe house for more than a decade, said he believes the concerns — and hackles — raised at Wednesday's meeting were probably the result of misunderstanding.
"My hunch is the plan hasn't changed," he said.
But Maggard was clear in his determination to prevent the demolition of the one-time ranger house.
"I'm still in favor of the ranger house being preserved," he said. "It could add to the ambiance of the park, not take away from it."
As it stands now, the removal of the house would make room for an entertainment center and a place where taco trucks and other concessions might be allowed to do business.
Should the plan come before the Board of Supervisors with language for the destruction of the house still in place, Maggard said he would work to have it removed before a vote.
"My clear understanding is that house will be preserved," he said.