May/June 2015 issue
North Coast Aerial, Landscape & Wildlife Photography
Barry Blanchard, David Polzine, Paul Babb
Wednesday, May 13, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room,
Pine Flat Road & Ice Cream Grade
|Stunning Imagery from Local Photographers: Bird’s Eye Views, Views of Birds
Have you seen aerial videos or photos shot by an SUAS (Small Unmanned Aerial System)? Of course you have, and they are captivating. SUASes are commonly called drones, but that word has come to have many negative connotations, says multi-talented Bonny Dooner Barry Blanchard, who has shot some gorgeous stills and footage with them. Drones, excuse me, SUASes, are one of the hottest trends in America today, and that may well be true in Bonny Doon, too. They are at the same time fascinating, fun, useful—think search and rescue, and spotting wildfires—and annoying and intrusive. On Wednesday, May 13, at the RBDA meeting, Barry will do a presentation about SUASes, talk about the benefits and the controversies, and of course will show some of his sensational images. He will be joined by local photographers David Polzine and Paul Babb, who regularly share their exquisite work on the Slice Facebook page.
Barry is also known for his highly informative site www.bonnydoonweather.com, the go-to site for current local weather conditions and historical data, and his gorgeously crafted body jewelry, viewable at www.anatometal.com.
It seems that almost every day on Slice we see another one of Paul’s highly detailed and perfectly framed bird and wildlife photos, or David’s strikingly lit landscapes. This is a great opportunity to see a lot more of their work, and hear them talk about it. Paul, a former UCSC Fire Captain, only took up photography seriously after he retired nine years ago. Though his work is on a par with that of vaunted professionals, he does not sell his photos, but will often print one on request for just the cost of the materials. “I freely share my photos only because I am glad that people get enjoyment out of them, no strings attached. Not everything in this world is about money,” he says.
© Paul Babb
Says David, “Growing up in the San Joaquin Valley, my family escaped summer’s sweltering heat and winter tule fogs by escaping to the Sierras or the Central Coast, and there was always a camera along. In time I became the one behind it and to this day I love sharing the feelings I experience in wild places with others through my photographs.”
We are excited about this chance to see some spectacular images of our beautiful landscapes and its wild denizens. We hope you’re up for it, too.
A Monument to Uncertainty
On April 21 the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution supporting the designation of Coast Dairies as a national monument. Apparently they think it will bring added protection for the 5,800 acre property, and more money for stewardship, management and construction of trails and visitor facilities. We do not share that opinion. We are strongly concerned that monument status might attract so many more hikers, cyclists and equestrians that it could actually harm the plants and the animals living in and moving through the area. And it will certainly negatively impact the North Coast beaches, roads and neighboring communities.
And what is the point? Coast Dairies is already strongly protected from adverse activities like mining, logging, development and off-road recreational vehicle use by deed restrictions on the property, made even stiffer by the terms of a Coastal Development Permit (CDP). The monument campaign backers have raised the red herring of a recent Congressional vote by Republicans to sell off federal lands that are not national monuments or parks. The terms of the deed restrictions and the CDP are valid in perpetuity, regardless of future ownership of the land. Would anyone pay many millions of dollars for something they can’t build anything on?
— Public Use Won’t Happen Any Sooner
Coast Dairies’ owner, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is going to build trails and open it to public access, and it doesn’t seem certain that it will happen any faster—2 years or so—whether it’s a monument or not. BLM regional chief Rick Cooper says a 2-mile loop trail in the southwest corner will be created well before then, perhaps this year.
While it is true that national monument status may bring opportunities for more public and private funding for Coast Dairies, that is not certain. The monument campaign’s backer, Sempervirens Fund, says that private individuals and foundations have historically been more willing to shell out money to support national monuments than for other publicly owned land. That is probably accurate, and we certainly hope that it is so, because BLM is depending on it. If Coast Dairies becomes a national monument BLM will have access to only one additional pot of federal money, for which it will have to compete every year with the other 136 national monuments. Since Ft. Ord became a national monument in 2012, BLM has received less money to manage it each year, and visitation has grown to 400,000 annually. Republicans in Congress have openly stated their desire to cut funding for federal land.
— Depending on Volunteers
BLM is also depending on volunteers to shoulder much of the work of stewarding the land, because its central California division has only four rangers to cover the nearly 300,000 acres of properties it owns and manages. It plans to contract with CalFire for firefighting, and may try to work out a similar arrangement with the County Sheriff’s office for law enforcement. However, the latter, along with the CHP, will be busier dealing with increased traffic on Highway 1, the only access road to Coast Dairies, and emergency response and search and rescue operations will also fall to local agencies, which won’t be compensated for the added work. According to the Davenport/North Coast Association (DNCA), there were 250 incidents requiring first responders on North Coast beaches and Highway 1 in 2014.
We are also concerned by the likelihood that many of the additional visitors will also head to the many beautiful beaches owned and run largely through a policy of benign neglect by the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation (State Parks). With their pitifully inadequate budget they are hard-pressed to pick up the mounting piles of trash and halt the increasing abuse of these jewels of the North Coast by graffiti artists and partiers. In addition, parking is already scarce on warm weekend days. Where will all the new visitors park? On the road, risking life and limb crossing the busy highway, and endangering cyclists by blocking bike lanes and opening car doors without looking?
Sempervirens argues visitation won’t be nearly as high as at Ft. Ord because of all the other attractive outdoor destinations on the North Coast, and BLM can control it by limiting parking and the number of trails. Has Sempervirens, or anyone, conducted a poll of how many people might want to visit? How many visitors would it take to start degrading the environment? Shouldn’t we try to have some idea about this in advance, because once it becomes a national monument, it will be so forever, advertised nationally and internationally as a great place to visit?
— More Study Needed
We argued to the Supervisors, unsuccessfully, that there should be a lot more study of whether monument status is a good idea, and of what the impacts will be on Bonny Doon and other surrounding communities before they supported the monument campaign. Rep. Anna Eshoo’s staff told us there are many other monument proposals with more seniority and powerful backers. Thus there is probably a year or more before any presidential proclamation will be issued. What is the rush?
The Supervisors did support a number of changes we had asked for in Eshoo’s monument bill now in Congress, including keeping the Coast Dairies name rather than calling it the Santa Cruz Redwoods National Monument, and deleting the automatic inclusion of any adjoining property that becomes federally owned. That would eliminate the automatic addition of all or any portion of the adjacent 8,500 acre San Vicente Redwoods property Sempervirens and its conservation partners bought from Cemex. While there is virtually no chance Eshoo’s bill will get through the Republican Congress, the language in such bills is usually the basis for a Presidential proclamation.
— Keep the Coast Dairies Name
We hope that Rep. Eshoo will accept the conditions under which the Supervisors supported the monument designation, including keeping the name Coast Dairies instead of the arbitrary and misleading Santa Cruz Redwoods that Sempervirens dreamed up strictly for fundraising and public relations purposes. Supervisor Coonerty, who authored the resolution, stated that if its conditions are not accepted by Rep. Eshoo he will ask the Supervisors to withdraw their support for monument status.
We are trying to arrange a public RBDA meeting about the monument in July, with Rick Cooper and Shelley Ratay, the new executive director of Sempervirens Fund.
— New Website for Information
We have also created a website, www.friendsofthenorthcoast.org, to educate people about Coast Dairies and the real facts about funding and the strict and irrevocable protections already in place on the property. An open Facebook group, Friends of the North Coast, is the place for up-to-date news and comments.
Pot Paradox: Legal to Buy, Illegal to Grow
On April 14 the Board of Supervisors approved a new marijuana cultivation ordinance that effectively makes it illegal to grow it in Santa Cruz County except by people holding valid medical marijuana cards—or their legally designated caregivers—who can grow 100 square feet of plants for personal use.
What that means is that the County’s 14 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries (except for WAMM, the Wo/men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which has a special exemption to grow it) can legally sell marijuana products, but must buy them illegally from commercial growers or cardholders who grow more than they need. The limit of 100 square feet per cardholder practically guarantees that they will be harvesting a lot more than they personally can consume, unless they are named Cheech or Chong.
We are dismayed that the Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance that causes people to commit an illegal act in order to carry out their legally condoned business. But that is the Twilight Zone world of marijuana use that we live in, ruled by conflicting state, federal and local laws.
The new county cultivation ordinance is an attempt to stem the rapid rise in commercial pot pharms, some of whose operators have devastated properties through clear-cutting, poisoned soil and creeks with nasty chemicals, dammed streams, piled up trash, and increased fire danger from dangerous electric wiring in houses and in the woods. These pharms have depleted water supplies in this extended period of drought through extensive irrigation, and contributed to neighborhood friction by building high fences, patrolling with armed guards and dogs, and releasing unwelcome smells. The County’s Code Compliance officers are responsible for stopping the illegal grows, starting with civil penalties, but already are overwhelmed. At last count they were investigating almost 150 sites throughout the county, mostly in rural areas like Bonny Doon.
The new ordinance passed 3 to 2, with Supervisors Ryan Coonerty and John Leopold voting against it. Supervisor Coonerty argued for permitting the dispensaries to grow their own in warehouses or on Commercial Agricultural parcels, or to contract with a few suppliers to do it in those locations. We also favored that approach. It would have protected our residential neighborhoods and made it plain which pot pharms were legal, and this would have saved Code Compliance officers valuable time by not having to investigate every complaint.
In any case, we are skeptical of how successful the County will be in solving this problem, which will only be exacerbated if and when recreational use by adults becomes legal.
On a related note, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently formed a Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy “in light of the likelihood that a marijuana legalization initiative will be placed on the 2016 California ballot, and that serious and thoughtful analysis must be conducted in order to identify significant policy challenges and offer possible solutions.” Commission members are “leading policymakers, public health experts and academics from across the state and the nation that have done significant work and research related to marijuana.”
According to its website, www.safeandsmartpolicy.org, “The purpose of the Commission is to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of various policy questions related to the possibility of legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults in California. The Commission will also endeavor to identify the range of solutions that might be deployed to resolve those questions, address the pros and cons of various approaches, and disseminate this information to California voters, policy-makers and those likely to fund and draft a ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana for adults.” Go to the above website for news of online public forums and other developments.
Emergency Responders Program Begins
At the urging of Friends of Bonny Doon Fire, the County Fire Department has established a new classification within its Volunteer Fire Department ranks: the Emergency Medical Responder (EMR). It is aimed at providing additional help for people undergoing medical emergencies in rural areas such as Bonny Doon.
The great majority of calls the Bonny Doon Fire Team and County Fire respond to are medical emergencies. The stiff physical and training requirements for firefighters is one of the main causes of a serious decline in the number of volunteers. This program will allow people to offer often life-saving help without having to go through that training. Already 12 Bonny Dooners, some of whom have experience and credentials as emergency medical technicians (EMTs), have expressed an interest in the program.
County Fire has begun recruiting for the Volunteer EMR position. Although many details of the selection criteria and training program aren’t yet available, it is hoped that some EMRs will be ready to go this summer. For more information, contact the Bonny Doon Fire Team or go to http://santacruzcountyfire.com and navigate to Volunteer Opportunities.
And don’t forget to support our Fire Team at its annual Unpancake Breakfast, Sunday, June 7, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Martin Road Firehouse.
Worked Up About Working Lands
Swirling behind the scenes of the Coast Dairies monument campaign is a skirmish among various interests about how land in Santa Cruz County, including the North Coast, is conserved and preserved. The curtain on that battle was pulled aside in April when the Board of Supervisors passed a Resolution on Working Lands, that is, farms, ranches and timberlands.
The Farm Bureau, Big Creek Lumber and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County backed the resolution, which is aimed at keeping working land from being converted to “other uses.” We and other groups and individuals asked the Board to change “other uses” to “development” because there are times when it is environmentally necessary to halt farming or logging on a parcel. That was the case when some farms adjacent to Elkhorn Slough were acquired and taken out of production to keep silt and harmful chemicals out of the slough. Nevertheless, the Supervisors rejected our suggestion. The wording of the resolution was also opposed by Sempervirens Fund, which is worried that it will make it harder to piece together their “Great Park” vision, a “tapestry” of open lands that will largely link together all the preserved or conserved properties on the North Coast.
The same groups are at odds over an effort to create an Open Space District in the county to keep land undeveloped. While the Land Trust headed an unsuccessful attempt to do that a few years ago, the Supervisors have selected Fred Keeley, the president of Sempervirens Fund board, to head this new effort. Bowing to Big Creek’s fear that timberlands might be taken out of production, by a different action the Supervisors banned any Open Space District, the creation of which would have to be approved by public vote, from using the power of eminent domain.
Castle House Permit Still Under Siege
The lengthy effort to keep a commercial event center from being permitted in a residentially zoned neighborhood is entering its final stages. On March 17 the Board of Supervisors declined to take jurisdiction of an appeal of the Castle House’s permit approval. Neighbors promptly appealed to the Coastal Commission, which is the last resort, other than a lawsuit, for rejecting the permit. At its May 14 meeting in Santa Barbara, the commission will decide whether the case involves a “substantial issue,” in which case it will take jurisdiction.
Whether the Castle House, which is up for sale, eventually gets its permit or not, the struggle has been successful in its larger goals: to keep this permit approval from setting a precedent, and to reduce the impact on neighbors. The original application has been pared back to only four weddings a year with a maximum of 50 guests, ending by 7 p.m. New owners will have to apply for a new permit if they want to rent the property out for events.
While Supervisor Ryan Coonerty declined to ask the Board to hear the permit appeal, he got them to agree to a moratorium on new applications to create event centers in residential neighborhoods until a new ordinance specifically regulating commercial uses of residential properties is written and approved.
Coast Dairies, photo by Ted Benhari
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Ideas for RBDA Meeting Topics
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