Citing stipulations and rules that changed Saturday’s 11th Annual Southern California Rams Booster Club Picnic at Peter F. Schabarum Regional Park in Roland Heights from a “picnic” into an “organized event,” County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation officials were forced to have the L.A. County Sheriff’s office come in and shut the event down.
“They’ve been here before.” Said a parks and recreation official who didn’t want to be identified adding, “They really amped it up this year and broke rules in the process.”
“Amped” is a good way to put it.
The picnic/event - which began at nine in the morning before being abruptly shut down at three p.m. - attracted a crowd estimated by parks and recreation officials at being more than 2,500 people.
St. Louis Rams fans came from as far as Fresno to the north and Arizona – YES, Arizona – to the southwest to get together prior to the kick-off of the upcoming season.
Former Los Angeles Rams players - including Frank Corral, A.J. “Jam” Jones and Doug Reed – were there signing autographs for everyone.
“I’m disappointed. I wanted to meet some of those players.” Said a Sheriff ‘s officer who aided in closing the event. “I’m a huge Rams fan from way back when they were here but rules are rules and we had to shut it down.”
A tremendous turnout for an area that’s been without a team since both the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season – 20 years ago.
“Some of the people at the event brought over-sized portable barbeques, a few were consuming alcoholic beverages,” said the parks and rec official adding, “That’s against the rules.”
The parks and rec official also told me some brought huge portable generators while others plugged into outlets in the available public restrooms causing a “tripping hazard” for park-goers.
“You can’t do that. It’s similar to when a request for concerts or movies in the park are made. You need permits for all of this,” explained the parks and rec official.
With a Sheriff’s department helicopter flying over-head, So. Cal Rams Booster Club president Ralph Valdez told me;
“We’ve had this picnic here the last seven years around this time and never been told to leave.”
The difference from those picnics prior to Saturday’s is that they never attracted more than 200 people – still a big enough number for an area without a team for 20 years.
Schabarum Park is a 575-acre facility with 75 acres developed for activities that include walking, hiking and picnics with “limited parking” provided.
The picnic areas are divided up into 11 locations with the largest sites having a group capacity of no more than 200 people.
According to the park’s picnic information sheet most of those are made available on a first-come first-served basis but with the largest areas requiring a non-refundable reservation/rental fee, a refundable “clean-up/security deposit” fee of between $150-$450 and may require proof of liability insurance showing the County of L.A. as “co-insured” for the amount $2-million.
“I wasn’t told any of that info. I was told picnic areas were first-come, first-served,” explained Valdez adding, “They have my contact info and never called me.”
Prior to this year, there really wasn’t any need to contact him.
That’s all changed with – to borrow from the parks and rec official – recent “amped up” talk of the NFL’s inevitable return to Los Angeles in the near future.
To hear more from Valdez about the picnic and its abrupt shut-down, click on the video with this story.