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Master plan critical for long term care of Wilderness Park

Preserving the natural resources of the San Gabriel foothills while advocating for passive recreational use of these areas is a mission the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy (CWC) takes seriously.

The grassroots organization with its extensive local support is one of several working directly with the city and its consultants to help design a cohesive master plan for the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park.

The CWC has completed an 11-page provisional position statement, outlining the primary goals the conservancy would like to see implemented into the master plan. The position statement was circulated to members of the Claremont City Council, city staff, and MIG earlier this week and the highlights are provided below.

With five areas of focus that include preservation, access, safety, park culture and sustainable funding, the CWC believes an effective master plan will emerge only if there is full stakeholder participation with the goal of finding creative solutions to the challenges surrounding the growth of the park.

Managing resources

The conservancy believes the key to achieving their goal of preservation is a strong resource management plan which includes cataloging and classifying the existing flora and fauna found in the park, preserving historical, cultural and natural features of the park and drawing on community resources for preserving and managing the park.

In addition, the preservation efforts also include park expansion. The CWC supports the efforts to secure additional open space for the park in order to preserve the integrity of ecosystems, maintain a continuous wilderness corridor along the San Gabriel foothills and protect the watershed. They believe this is possible to achieve by making all reasonable efforts to secure additional parcels of hillside land, proactively encourage the purchase and maintenance of hillside properties and to open publicly held hillside properties for passive recreational use.

These efforts would require the creation of a full or part-time position on the city’s administrative staff to oversee the expansion of the park.

Access

With the mass appeal of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, the conservancy believes the park belongs not only to the residents of Claremont, but to the larger public as well and should be marketed as such. However, since Claremont residents pay taxes to support the CHWP and the surrounding streets, they also believe Claremonters should enjoy special parking privileges. Although they are opposed to the raising of parking fees during peak periods as a tactic to divert visitors, thus discriminating against low-income visitors, they support parking restrictions that are limited to the minimum level necessary to achieve their objectives.

In its effort to tackle the congestion, the CWC supports parking restrictions, but cautions against setting a city wide precedent that may spill over to other congested areas of the city including the Village, churches, schools and parks.

One of their solutions would be to expand parking in the north and south parking lots of the CHWP although they suggest this expansion should be treated as overflow and made available only as needed. In addition, they proposed linking the Padua Sports Park with a path to the CHWP Mills entrance.

A park entrance fee which would eliminate the need for parking fees is unappealing to the CWC because of high administrative cost, the difficulty to enforce due to multiple park entry points and may encourage elicit entry which would damage the environment and undermine the recommendations for preservation and conservation.

In stark contradiction to past resident viewpoints, the conservancy believes the preliminary evidence suggests that number of current park users even at peak periods is not having a significant negative impact on the goal of park preservation.

Making safety a priority

Threat of fire is a constant danger in the park and the CWC believes first responders such as rangers, police and fire personnel should jointly be trained on rapid evacuation procedures.

Equally as important to the safety of those who use the park is knowledge of safe trail behavior. The conservancy suggests offering guidelines such as “Keep to the Right,” bicyclists warning hikers when overtaking them on a trail and reducing downhill speeds on blind corners, leashing dogs at all times and alerting hikers to the hazards of wearing earbuds while using park trails.

Park users should also be educated on the practice of leaving no trace – packing out what you pack into the park.

Another suggestion is the implementation of self-composting toilets installed at or near the midpoint of the Loop Trial and the construction of a full restroom with drinking fountains near the Mills entrance.

Too keep everyone safe, the CWC would like to see trained and uniformed park rangers empowered to issue warnings and citations to users who violate park rules.

Park culture

Education by park rangers and volunteers can create a culture in which people treat nature and one another with respect and care. The CWC holds the belief that the master plan should seek a way to create a culture of stewardship among the parks many visitors. In order to educate those who use the park, the conservancy suggests informational brochures be made available at the Mills entrance which would include park trail maps, estimated walking and running times, information on flora and fauna and rules for safety and etiquette. 

Sustainable funding

The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park is currently funded by a variety of sources including the state of California, Los Angeles County, the LA County Fire Department, Claremont Wildlands Conservancy, Claremont citizens, non-profit agencies, Pomona College and parking fees paid by Claremont and non-Claremont residents. Ongoing funding will be necessary for future land acquisitions and to implement the various provisions of the master plan.

The CWC recommends the city council develop a budget and establish sustainable funding to support the implementation of the master plan.

It is also recommended that the ranger program be significantly expanded to address the goals and a city administrator with adequate time and resources assume responsibility to the CHWP.

Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor welcomes the thoughtful input of the CWC and recognizes the value in their suggestions. “The city appreciates the perspective of the Wildlands Conservancy and the many points outlined in their provisional position paper. The goal of the Master Plan is to gather and analyze the input of all the community groups with a stake in the future of the park. The success of the Master Plan is dependent on addressing the concerns of organizations like the Wildlands Conservancy and working with them to develop a long range plan that preserves the area while allowing for recreational activities.”   

For more information on the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy and their Provisional Position Statement, log on to www.claremontwildlands.org.

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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