Wilderness Park master plan inches closer to reality

The Claremont Community and Human Services Commission voted during a special session Monday night to recommend adoption of the final draft of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park (CHWP) Master Plan and send it to the city council for final approval.

Claremonters came out in droves during the meeting to give insight to the CHWP plan and implementation plan on Monday night, offering spirited support and encouraging plans for more research.

The review was the first time the plans were considered in a commission setting. Previously, the final draft master plan was released to the public on January 14 after years of revising and public input from residents. Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor was on hand to present the master plan, quickly summarizing the detailed document for the sake of time.

Link to video flying up the 5-mile loop trail

“These plans are the culmination of more than two years of studying, drafting, meetings, problem solving, community building, all in order to get here,” Mr. Tudor said.

The plan has gone through a number of iterations over the years. The Draft Master Plan was unveiled in July 2015, and, after numerous workshops and public comments, it was retooled and reprinted. The plan was originally supposed to be a single document, but the separate implementation plan was borne from public feedback about in-depth environmental research, watershed management and general maintenance.

The four chapters of the plan and the implementation plan offer an extensive look at all aspects of the park, including how to control traffic, hours of operation, how to deal with litter and human waste, a cataloguing of the vegetation inside the park and general park management.

A main tenet of the master plan, Mr. Tudor says, is that it be treated as a “living document,” meaning that it can be amended, added to and subtracted from over the years.

Commission member Lynne Marsenich worried about any additional research that needed to be done for the plans, a concern Mr. Tudor assuaged while reiterating that more can be done in the future.

“We don’t believe the plan is insufficient or that it isn’t what we set out to do. This doesn’t mean it couldn’t be more, if that is everyone’s wish,” Mr. Tudor said.

Mr. Tudor also gave a rundown of the new implementation plan, which goes into detail about hiring a full-time ranger for the park, creating a “Friends of the CHWP” group, implementing park rules and enhancing programming and public outreach.

Notably, the implementation plan cements the park’s name as a wilderness park, rather than an “area,” a preference originally brought forth during the public workshop in September 2015.

Also notable was the city’s discarding of the idea of installing “spike strips” at the exit of the north parking lot, a move that Mr. Tudor admitted was “a little too draconian.”

During public comment, many of the residents, including members of the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy and Claremont Heritage, urged the adoption of the master plan, as opposed to the receiving and filing of the plan originally outlined in the agenda. Under the staff’s plan, the master plan would be received and filed, while the implementation plan would be adopted.

“Accept and file sounds like a euphemism for ‘ignore and bury,’” resident Elizabeth Smith said. “We would love to see some action start right away.”

Some residents also urged that more environmental and watershed studies be undertaken to beef up the plans.

Claremont centenarian Marilee Scaff approached the podium, carrying volumes of documents. “I’ve come to give you some help,” she began, before holding up document after document of environmental studies done by numerous organizations throughout the city.

“Studies have been made. We do not need any more studies,” Ms. Scaff said. “We need to attempt to do the things we now know need to be done. So the main thing for us to do is move ahead and adopt those plans.”

CWC Board President Lissa Petersen urged the commission to tack on a vision statement to the plan that outlines the park as a treasured environmental resource and a highlight of Claremont’s identity, as well as offering guidance for future generations to preserve it. Ms. Petersen also urged adoption of the plans, saying more studies can be done afterward.

“We spent three years on this, it’s time to move ahead,” she emphasized.

Ms. Petersen also sent a letter to City Manager Tony Ramos on February 17, citing staff turnover delaying implementation of the plan, an unadopted plan lacking “clout.”

During discussion, commission member Butch Henderson brought forth an amended motion that would seek to recommend adoption of the plans, complete with a vision statement and any changes “that may be deemed necessary because of it,” Commission member Maury Feingold seconded it, and the motion passed unanimously.

The next step is to send the plans to the Claremont City Council. The entire final draft master plan and implementation plan are available on the city of Claremont’s website.

—Matthew Bramlett



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