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03-14-03, 01:58 PM
March 14, 2003

Locals lambaste officials for banning Marine exercises

Associated Press

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — City Manager Les Evans faced angry opposition from residents this week after refusing the Marine Corps’ request to conduct night exercises this summer at a former theme park in this affluent coastal town.
Evans said no to the Marines because in the past helicopters and explosions used in the trainings awakened residents and caused a slew of complaints to the police.

But as word of Evans’ decision spread, locals became upset over the perceived lack of patriotism.

“Right now, public opinion is running 6-1 against me that I should cut my throat,” Evans said.

Evans, a veteran of the Navy Seabees who served in Vietnam, received half a dozen complaints Thursday from residents and City Council members.

“I was upset,” said Councilman John McTaggart. “I know there are people who are annoyed by the noise and don’t like it, but if it is a matter of improving skills for our servicemen, I certainly support” the exercises.

McTaggart said many of the complaints about the Marines were from residents whose pets were bothered by the noise.

Evans said he wanted to ensure that residents knew the exercises were by the Marines and not a terrorist attack.

Marines from Camp Pendleton have used the 100-acre site since the early 1990s because they can approach it by land, sea or sky. The former theme park known as Marineland has often became a make-believe city or country in the exercises. Usually fewer than 100 troops would “invade” the park and recover either a person or valuable object, said Col. Pat O’Donogue.

Marines would blow open entranceways to Marineland during the exercise. Flash-bang grenades and paintball rounds were used to subdue “the enemy.” After accomplishing their mission, troops were picked up by helicopter.

“We take our civic responsibility seriously,” O’Donogue said. “When we’ve done this in the past, we’ve gotten noise complaints that you can count on one hand. But a couple of people have been very adamant about it. Duly noted.”

Both O’Donogue and Evans said they believe an agreement can be achieved, and that the Marines will again storm the Rancho Palos Verdes beaches again this summer.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.