Last Saturday morning, Transition Habitat Conservancy (THC) and the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) co-sponsored their annual wildflower hike at the THC Portal Ridge Wildlife Preserve in Lancaster. Located just southwest of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, the 2,400 acre THC wildlife site includes natural meadows, canyons, streambeds and a panoramic vista of the Antelope Valley extending north to the Tehachapi Mountains. Although 800 acres had burned in the 2013 Powerhouse Fire, Mother Nature was on the rebound with new plant life and endless color. Arriving to a staging area at 9:00 am, more than 50 guests were welcomed by THC President Jill Bays and CNPS California Desert Conservation Chairman Tom Egan. After that, THC Office Administrator Wendy Walker and Tom Egan led hikers up a trail following the ridge top bordering the eastern property line. From that vista, the foreground included the California Aqueduct and Poppy Reserve, while in the distant background there was a patchwork of wind and solar farms on the valley floor. That very ridgeline and a plateau had almost become an 8,000-acre wind farm until THC successfully acquired a 1,600 acre conservation easement through the proposed project area. With funding from various conservation agencies, THC secured Portal Ridge in its natural state for future generations, as mitigation for wind and solar installations permitted at other locales. Continuing on the hike, participants descended the canyon slope through taller vegetation and outcroppings of boulders. Upon reaching the bottom, hikers found an area where the watercourse transitioned from flowing over rock formations to meandering through sandy areas between boulders. While en route back to the trailhead, participants had identified 20 wildflower and native plant species, and spotted two rattlesnakes that preferred to slink back into the vegetation, rather than encounter humans. For the most part, the Portal Ridge wildflower hike was an experience in subtle pastel colors embracing rugged terrain. In sharp contrast, the nearby Poppy Reserve was at its boldest orange on the roadside embankment along Lancaster Road, with the interior meadows yet to reach their prime. Sunday April 23, Transition Habitat Conservancy and Barkingham Palace present “A Dog Day Afternoon” with all canines invited to celebrate Earth Day in the Puma Canyon Ecological Reserve. The park walk will highlight two recent acquisitions of THC-the Roberta Dewey Ranch and the Roberta Dewey Discovery Center. The walk is a 1.1-mile loop with a 500-foot elevation gain. After the walk, the event continues back at the ranch with a complimentary lunch, Silly Pet Trick Contest, Owner/Pet Look-Alike Contest, and silent auction of various dog-themed gift baskets. Roberta Dewey Ranch is located at 1681Hillview Road in Pinon Hills California 92372. As a THC fundraiser, pre-registration before April 22, is $12.00 mailed to P.O Box 721300 Pinon Hills Calif. 92372 or brought in person to Barkingham Palace, 3724 Phelan Road, Phelan Calif. 92371. On the day of the event at the Dewey Ranch, the cost is $15.00. Humans without four-legged friends are also welcome and should check in at 10:30 am. For additional information, go to www.TransitionHabitat.org, or call Wendi at (907) 209-0723.
SR 138, the good news, and the bad
By Terri Hill
Cal Trans District 8 Public Information Officer, Tyeisha Prunty met with residents from the Tri-Community Thursday March 16. She addressed questions and concerns regarding the continuing Highway 138 West Widening Project. The project is expected to be completed in August of this year. While there are no full closures planned, there will be a need to close the on and off-ramps to I-15 when the road from the gas stations on the west side, to Wagon Train Road on the east is repaved. Prunty will publish the dates of that closure when they are available. Many of the same issues come up at each meeting. Visibility at the intersection of Lone Pine and 138 has been problematic since the first K-rail was installed. For motorists turning right (east) from Lone Pine onto 138, it is nearly impossible to see oncoming traffic from the west. When the first K-rail was installed, drivers had to pull out, almost into traffic before they could see if it was safe to continue. Given that complaint, Prunty reported the problem to the contractors, who repositioned the K-rail and added an access lane, which would give motorists room to pull out onto the highway, and join the traffic flow when safe to do so. Still, the K-rail is too high for drivers to see over, unless they are driving high-profile vehicles. Prunty explained the position of the K-rail cannot be changed until the final paving of the new lanes is done, as they are placed for safety of the workers, and to allow proper drainage during storms. Prunty, as yet, does not have answers for questions about signals at Beekley and 138, and the narrow lanes created by K-rail at Phelan Road and 138. Patrick Martin inquired about the commercial development of the corner across from Rick’s Café, and its possible effects on the work by Cal Trans. Prunty was unaware of the new construction and will look into it. An Overhead Changeable Message Sign (CMS) east of Hess Road was a topic of discussion; residents wonder if it is permanent. Also, it was suggested that reflectors be placed on the lanes at the transition from 138 westbound, to Sheep Creek. Prunty said she will look into the issues and include the answers in a follow-up email. Aesthetics along the highway are of concern to varying groups within the community. As reported in last week’s Mountaineer, the Mormon Trail Monument was replaced by Cal Trans and installed two weeks ago. The monument is specially placed so that sighting along the wagon wheel’s edge, across the Pass, the observer can see part of the Mormon Trail. However, there is no storyboard to explain the history, nor is there room for motorists to pull off the road safely, and take a closer look. Prunty said that private funds could be raised toward a storyboard, but only after Cal Trans, “Okays” the project. Whether or not parking will considered in the future is unknown. A vista point at Mormon Rocks, across from the Ranger Station, will offer 12 parking stalls (2 Accessible ADA stalls) and 1 Bus pullout. There will be a 2’x3’ storyboard and a trail around the rock formations. Community members, including Wrightwood Historical Society President John Lenau, would like to see more opportunities explored for recreation, rest, and teaching at the vista point. An actual rest stop, with bathrooms, could be a welcome addition to the well-traveled highway. When asked about the suggestion of restrooms at the facility, Prunty reported Cal Trans’ answer, “No.” The vista point will be maintained by Cal Trans, and they do not intend to go to the expense of bringing water for bathrooms to the site and committing to the continued maintenance of those facilities. Lenau and many others are exploring options to develop the rest by other means. For updates on the Widening Project, visit http://www.dot.ca.gov/d8/ and sign up for email alerts. The next community meeting for the Widening Project is scheduled for May 17, at the Wrightwood Community Building, at 6:30 p.m. Wrightwood Community Services District final results
By Vicky Rinek
Tuesday March 7, the residents voted to move forward in self-governance, in the form of a Wrightwood Community Services District. As reported, by the San Bernardino Registrar of Voters, the final official count on Measure C was approved by voters with 939 Ballots Cast: 573 (63 percent) ‘yes’ votes to 337 (37 percent) ‘no’ votes. Twenty-nine voters failed to mark ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for the CSD on their ballots. Of the eight candidates running for the five seats on the CSD board, Leo W. Hordyk received 521 votes, or 17.39 percent; followed by Michelle Schneider with 467 votes, or 15.41 percent; Stephanie Carroll with 452 votes, or 14.48 percent; Wes Zuber with 446 votes, or 14.35 percent; Natalie Lopiccolo with 419 voters, or 14.02 percent; Charles “Chuck” Franklin with 365 votes, or 10.98 percent; Monica Ciccarelli with 295 votes, or 9.72 percent; and Andrew Ciccarelli with 96 votes, or 3.64 percent. The proposed district will oversee Parks and Recreation, Streetlighting, Solid Waste and Wastewater Planning and Engineering services in a 17-square mile area of the mountains. The District’s revenue will come from existing property tax revenues, franchise fees and an existing special tax paid by residents for solid waste services. According to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), the district will be financially viable for its first five years of existence. Polling took place at the Wrightwood United Methodist Church. Poll Workers included Yolanda Wallace, Alicia Maciel, Amanda Kaiser, Sheri Perez, and Elizabeth Hutchinson.
Future for Wrightwood MAC?
By Terri Hill
At Monday’s meeting of the Wrightwood Municipal Advisory Council (MAC), Representative from Supervisor Lovingood’s office, Susan Drake extended the Supervisor’s congratulations on the formation of the Wrightwood Community Services District, and to its new Board of Directors. She then went on to explain that the MAC will be dissolved after the CSD becomes active in July. Many MAC Boards have met with this fate, according to Drake, because residents go to a MAC meeting to complain about the CSD, or vice versa. While the CSD will have responsibilities for Parks and Recreation, streetlights, and solid waste, the governing body will have no authority in regards to roads, land use, or County Fire agencies. Some attendees at the MAC meeting expressed concern for losing the link to the Supervisor’s office for these County services. The MAC Board has been the conduit through which the community communicates with County government since the 1970s. Some suggestions were offered as alternatives to dissolving the MAC. A MAC meeting could be scheduled shortly before one CSD meeting each month, allowing parties interested in proceedings of both boards to attend in one evening. MAC meetings held quarterly or every other month would also help keep the overall number of meeting nights to a minimum. Discussion and resolution to the issue will be on next month’s MAC meeting agenda, April 17. The public is encouraged to attend the meeting, at 6 p.m. in the Wrightwood Community Building, for this important discussion. Jim Cowen, of Golden State Water Company in Wrightwood, discussed the well levels and expectations for this year’s water issues. March 18 of this year, the well was 82’ compared to 80’ on the same day last year. While it measures two feet lower, the level this year is encouraging, as it reflects recent recharging. Cowen said, “I’d like to see another 20 feet, if we’re lucky,” by the end of the season. He explained that the recharge is just beginning, there is still snow on the mountains and water in the creeks, which is all good news. Cowan also detailed two projects the water company will begin soon, to replace 2” pipes from the 1920s with 8” pipes, as part of the ongoing system-wide upgrade. New pipe will go in on Spruce from Evergreen to Partridge, and on Betty between Elm and Oak Streets. Bonnie Ross emailed the MAC Board to announce a Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) training in April. Classes will be conducted over three Saturdays, April 22, 29 and May 6, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Phelan Community Center. Contact Vicky Arseneau at firstname.lastname@example.org or (909) 800-1933 to register. Another issue brought to Susan Drake for the Supervisor was low fines for parking violations during the holiday weekends this winter. Facebook posts boasted that the parking ticket cost of $20 was well worth it, to park and play in the snow. Members of the MAC Board asked that the county consider raising the price of the parking violations to $75 or $100, to create an actual deterrent to blocking access to private property and halting the flow of traffic.
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