Pechanga tribute to be part of Temecula council hot dog fete

A string of milestones – a quarry’s demise, a city election and a cross country championship – will be relished with hotdogs and all the fixings at the Dec. 11 Temecula City Council meeting. And if Councilman Mike Naggar’s specifications are met, event participants will munch premium ‘dogs rather than the cheap, skinny variety.

“It’s going to be one heck of a celebration,” Naggar predicted as the plan for a multipurpose party took shape recently.

Several council members and a longtime resident casually tossed out ideas for a recognition celebration during the Nov. 27 council meeting. But the wheels may have been set in motion weeks earlier when Naggar suggested the creation of a public display at City Hall to mark the demise of the controversial Liberty Quarry project.

As it now stands, the City Hall cookout will celebrate a historic land purchase by the Pechanga Indian tribe, the post-election swearing-in of two incumbent council members and a state championship victory by the Great Oak High School girls’ cross country team.

Naggar broached the idea for a permanent exhibit during his remarks at a Nov. 15 gathering that came after the tribe announced it had spent $20.35 million to buy the site of a contentious gravel mine and prevent similar projects from taking shape in the area.

The suggestion took hold and city and tribal leaders soon began examining the exhibit concept. Mayor Chuck Washington said plans were being set to adopt a city proclamation on Dec. 11 to praise the tribe’s actions. Other reasons for a hotdog celebration piled on when it was noted that a swearing-in ceremony and a tribute to the Great Oak runners were also on tap for Dec. 11.

On Nov. 15, tribal leaders announced a deal that called for the tribe to pay a Watsonville-based company $3 million to purchase the 354 acres that was the heart of a seven-year clash over whether Liberty Quarry should operate south of the city. The tribe also agreed to pay Granite Construction Company $17.35 million for key concessions that include agreeing to not own or operate a mine in a vast swath of land flanking the city through the year 2035.

That announcement, which attracted about 150 people to an impromptu gathering at the Pechanga casino, came about a week after Naggar and Mayor Chuck Washington handily won their re-election bids.

And just before the last council meeting, the Great Oak runners snared the top CIF honors for their division. The girls’ squad was subsequently ranked number two in the nation and it was invited to compete in the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore.

Naggar, Washington and others at the recent council meeting spotlighted the significance of the Pechanga deal and agreed that a display and public celebration are in order. Washington called the quarry purchase and close of escrow as a day “that changed Temecula forever.”

Washington said talks over the creation of a commemorative display began at a private lunch that included members of the city and tribal councils. Materials for the permanent exhibit are still being collected and considered, he said.

“The shape that (exhibit) takes and when that happens is not certain yet,” he said.

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