Wednesday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.
Two Birds’ Dangerous Tales
Two birds that call this area home are facing an uncertain future as their habitat diminishes and pollution and predators take their toll. Experts on each will talk about the situation at the next RBDA meeting.
David Suddjian will present a talk and slide show on Marbled Murrelets. David is a local ornithologist and expert on the birds of the Santa Cruz Mountains. He has worked as a biological consultant since 1988 and also conducted extensive personal research on the region’s birds, looking into their habitat needs, distribution and population trends. He has intensively studied Marbled Murrelets in our mountains since 1990, and his other recent research has examined the effects of logging on local bird populations.
David will offer a focused look at the endangered Marbled Murrelet in the Santa Cruz Mountains, an imperiled species at the edge of its range. The Marbled Murrelet is one of the most difficult species to study and even some of the basics of its biology remain poorly understood. This program will provide an overview of what is known about the mysterious murrelet’s local distribution, habitat needs, natural history and population trends, and will identify some of our conservation and management challenges.
The precarious situation of Snowy Plovers will be discussed by Carlton Eyster. As a biologist with the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Carleton has monitored and helped protect the population of Snowy Plovers in Monterey Bay and on the north coast of Santa Cruz County for the past 10 years. Plovers nest on the beaches and are threatened by human beachgoers and their canine pets. A program to help indentify and cordon off the plover nests has been ongoing on several North Coast beaches for the past few years.
Coast Dairies Planning Process Moves Ahead
The long-running planning process for the 7800 acre Coast Dairies property moved to the next phase after the Citizen Advisory Group (CAG) convened on Jan. 26 to offer their input before the comment period closed on Feb 1. Now the Trust for Public Lands’ (TPL) consultants are at work drafting the management plan alternatives. These will be presented to the CAG by the end of March. TPL owns Coast Dairies on an interim basis. Once the management plan is in place, it plans to turn the property over to public agencies.
The process of creating these analyses and documents is intended to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the state Department of Parks and Recreation are expected to assume ownership and management of the property from TPL although their jurisdictional boundaries and management relationship have still not been specified.
After another year of public review and revision, the preferred alternative will be selected and the transfer of ownership could begin. The plan may include certain restrictions that were conditions of the original sale or were identified in the planning process. It remains to be seen if BLM and State Parks will accept the property with restrictions and then abide by them. In BLM’s case, the management plan for the property would be incorporated into the Hollister Area Resource Management Plan, which covers the BLM’s 328,378 acre holdings scattered in 13 central California counties. This plan was created in 1984 and is scheduled to begin a 2½ year revision process in 2003.
More Help for Horse Owners
New informational material and grant money is available to help people with horses maintain their property in an environmentally sound way that is also healthier for the horses.
A flyer entitled The Mucky Mess, about controlling mud in horse keeping areas, went out to members of The Horseman’s Association. If you are not a member you can ask for a copy from the Resource Conservation District at 464-2950.
The Council of Bay Area Resource Conservation Districts (CBARCD) is now offering a 100-page large format manual that focuses on caring for the land and managing manure, and practical ways to help protect the environment. The manual costs $25 (plus sales tax and $5.20 for mailing). Order from the CBARCD at 1301 Redwood Way, Ste. 215, Petaluma, CA 94954-1134. A copy of the binder will be provided to those who attend a March 11, day-long, Horse Keeping Workshop put on by the San Mateo Resource Conservation District. A non-profit corporation called Bay Area Barns and Trails has another helpful program. Their 2002 Equestrian Land and Trail Stewardship Grants program offers $500 to $2500 grants to equestrians, public and private landowners, trails associations, and community groups.
Equestrians are invited to submit funding requests for stewardship projects which will enhance trails, stables, pastures and staging areas. Preference will be given to those near a creek, lake, reservoir, bay or estuary ecosystem. The grantors prioritize water quality enhancement projects, such as:
Waldorf: The Right School in the Wrong Place?
Almost everyone agrees that Waldorf is a terrific place to go to school. But a lot of people, especially its closest neighbors, think it’s in the wrong place.
The progressive K-to-8 school, perched at the top of Cave Gulch off Empire Grade, has been in existence since 1978, gradually growing from 65 to 215 students. Now it wants to expand some more, to 245 students. About 15 of its neighbors have retained attorney Jonathan Wittwer to fight it. Waldorf was permitted to have 160 students, but it enrolled 215, then got the county to agree to a temporary permit for the extra 55, pending approval of its current application to educate 245. Most of the students come from out side Bonny Doon. The number of Dooners ranges from 15 to 25.
The school, which has a devotedly environmental bent, stressing sustainable, organic lifestyles, says in its draft Environmental Impact Report that it has met all the county’s requirements for septic and water quality safety, and that it won’t impact neighborhood wells, which neighbors fear.
Traffic is a major issue. Wittwer and the school are at odds over how many vehicles a day enter and leave the school. Frank Lacombe, the president of the school’s board of directors, says the school has significantly boosted carpooling and bus ridership (now about 50 kids, according to Waldorf administrator Sara Walsh). Wittwer contends the EIR traffic study is based on a much higher average vehicle occupancy than is actually the case now, and says the bus occupancy is no higher now than it was many years ago.
In addition, neighbors are upset about the expansion of parking to accommodate up to 239 cars. It’s needed, says Walsh, because Waldorf wants to increase the annual number of events, some of which take place in the evening. At least 3 events will draw upwards of 400 people, while a few others draw more than 200. Adding up the numbers in the EIR, Wittwer concludes that there could be as many as 14 events with 200 or more attendees each year, including 8 events with 400 or more.
To deal with the increased traffic, Waldorf is proposing to move its driveway further south so it is on a straighter stretch of road, and erect yellow warning lights a few hundred yards away in each location to slow down the fast-moving Empire Grade traffic.
The big issue, according to Wittwer, is the precedent that expanding the school will set. Since Waldorf is outside the urban services line, it shouldn’t really have more than 30 students, according to the county’s formula for densities on its 5-acre lot. But the county has chosen to ignore that. Wittwer worries that letting Waldorf expand even more will open the door for more large private schools to locate in rural areas.
The neighbors will probably challenge some of the county planning staff’s conclusions in the draft EIR report (public comments are due March 11), and then continue their opposition when the Planning Commission considers whether to issue the permit, sometime later this year.
How do you feel about Waldorf and its expansion plans? Is Waldorf already too big for where it is? Do you notice much impact from it? Does the fact that it is such a good school make it okay even though the neighbors are mostly opposed to it?
Pig Petitions Online
Wild pigs have been ravaging Santa Cruz County public and private lands in an increasing and alarming fashion, despite a new law that made it a little easier for hunters and landowners to kill them, and the state Parks Department’s trapping program. The problem is that pigs can have up to 4 litters a year, with 6 or more in each litter. The piglets quickly mature sexually, so that one sow can be responsible for up to 200 descendants in a year.
With Bonny Doon blessed by huge private and public properties, the pigs have lots of breeding room, and no natural enemies.
To help deal with the problem the RBDA is circulating a petition to request that the California Department of Fish & Game declare Santa Cruz County a pig eradication zone. This will make it a lot easier for landowners to hunt them. The petitions were available at the January RBDA meeting. If you have them filled out with signatures, please bring them to the March 13 RBDA meeting, or mail them to the RBDA at 102 Sunlit Lane, Bonny Doon, CA 95060. The petitions are also available for downloading here on the RBDA website.
Quarry Expansion EIR Exemption Denied
The Planning Commission has unanimously denied RMC Pacific Materials appeal of the county Planning Staff’s decision to require an Environmental Impact Report for the expansion of RMC’s big limestone quarry south of Smith Grade and east of Bonny Doon Road.
RMC wants to start mining in a strip along the quarry’s east side, near Bonnymede. The land is zoned for mineral extraction. RMC has applied to mine it twice before in the ‘90s, and twice allowed the applications to expire. Neighbors, and the City of Santa Cruz, are concerned about the expansion’s impact on their wells and springs. The city gets up to 10% of its water from its big intake facility on Liddell Springs, south of the quarry.
RMC is appealing to the Board of Supervisors, and probably will go to court to avoid doing the EIR.
No Quorum at Meeting
There were 93 RBDA members at the January annual meeting of the RBDA, not enough for a quorum so that official business could be conducted. The audience nevertheless was treated to a lively debate among the three candidates for 3rd District Supervisor, incumbent Mardi Wormhoudt and her two challengers, Mark Primack and Mike Schmidt.
The continuing large membership of the RBDA, in the 500s, meant that 111 members were needed for a quorum. One aim of the draft bylaws drawn up by the Bylaws Committee was to reduce from 20% to 10% the portion of the membership needed to conduct official business at the annual meetings.
Amendment of the bylaws may be taken up at a Special Meeting called for that purpose-it can even take place the same night as one of the regular public meetings-or at the next annual meeting in January 2003.
A vote was taken on new RBDA officers, with incumbents Marty Demare and Miriam Beames and former board member Don Coyne the only nominees for the three open seats. Since there wasn’t a quorum, their election wasn’t official. Instead, the board appointed the three to serve until the next meeting at which a quorum is present, when there will be an official election.
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