Children’s safety first priority for Ramona’s Santa Maria Creek cleanup

By Karen Brainard

Focused on the safety of children as the No. 1 priority, those attending County Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s meeting on Santa Maria Creek Monday agreed that  cleaning up the overgrown waterway should be done in phases, beginning with the section behind Ramona Community Park ball fields.

Angus Tobiason, whose longtime insistence that the creek be cleaned out led to Monday's meeting with Supervisor Dianne Jacob, gets a thumbs up from daughter Chrissy after the meeting. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

“We do have some safety issues with the kids there,” said Dawn Perfect, a Ramona Unified School District trustee.

“Lord help us,” lifelong resident Angus Tobiason said, referring to the possibility of someone hiding in the creek bed and grabbing a child.

Jim Piva, chair of the Ramona Community Planning Group, said the first cleanup phase should run from the ball fields to Seventh Street, and start with clearing out trash and invasive species within the guidelines provided by environmental agencies.

Those environmental agencies have limited what property owners along the Santa Maria Creek can do to keep it clean without getting fined due to regulations.

Jacob invited representatives from such agencies and county staff to meet with Ramonans at her El Cajon office.

The supervisor threw her support behind the creek cleanup.

“This has to get done. We must find a way,” she said.

The meeting was spurred by Tobiason’s insistence that the creek poses the danger for crime and future flooding.

Sgt. Kurt Torsak of the sheriff’s Ramona substation said that early Friday morning, April 26, deputies conducted a sweep of the creek from Seventh Street to Montecito Road and took six people to jail. Of those, two were under the influence of drugs, one was publicly drunk, and three had warrants for their arrest, he said. Another was cited for illegal camping but did not go to jail due to medical issues, he said.

Ramona Community Planning Group Chair Jim Piva points out an area of the Santa Maria Creek on a map held by County Supervisor Dianne Jacob during a meeting she hosted in her El Cajon office on Monday. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

“We do have a population out there of illegal immigrants,” said the sergeant.

“It is impacted. We have a big problem with safety,” said Torsak, adding that drug dealing is a huge issue in the creek bed.

The thick vegetation provides cover for people to live under, according to the sheriff’s station.

All that brush also poses fire risks, residents at the meeting noted.

Chrissy Tobiason, daughter of Angus Tobiason, said the community used to maintain the creek, but that changed about 12 years ago due to environmentalists. She said her dad was told that a shopping cart halfway down in the dirt in the creek bed could not be removed because it “became a habitat for critters.”

The only environmental groups that were represented at the meeting were California Fish and Wildlife and Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB). Jacob also invited Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife but no one from those agencies attended.

Chrissy Tobiason said residents don’t want the environmental agencies to come in and do the work.

“We want you to give us the resources so we can take care of our own business,” she said.

“We’ll need the agencies’ help to make sure we are educated so we do it correctly,” said Jacob.

The supervisor said there will also need to be a plan for ongoing maintenance.

“It’s gotten worse than it’s ever been before,” Jacob said of the creek.

When environmental reps mentioned mitigation and compensating for losses in the creek, Jacob said the county will not do an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and said the agencies could put them in jail for cleaning up the creek.

“There is a huge public safety risk,” she emphasized.

Kelly Fisher with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said removing people from the creek bed won’t get rid of the homeless and there needs to be a collaborative effort to make the project work.

Fisher had put together a list of “do’s and don’ts” for flood control activities on behalf of Fish and Wildlife a couple of years ago. Her list, along with do’s and don’ts from other agencies, were passed out at the meeting as guidelines to follow, such as hand-removal of brush. The RWQCB representative said no equipment can be used in the creek bed to clear it out.

Fisher said whatever is done cannot alter the streambed. She also noted that federal law prohibits destroying the eggs and nests of birds.

Troy Bankston, deputy director, land development division for the county’s Department of Public Works, agreed to meet with Piva and identify property owners within the Phase 1 section.

Jacob said the secondary issue, after the cleanup,  will be establishing trails for what the county has defined as the Santa Maria Greenway project.

Related posts:

  1. Supervisor aids groups seeking to clean out Santa Maria Creek
  2. Planners back Tobiason’s goal for Santa Maria Creek
  3. County OKs $20,000 for Santa Maria Creek Greenway
  4. District marks completion of Santa Maria solar project
  5. Creek cleanup volunteers welcome

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Posted by Staff on Apr 30 2013. Filed under Backcountry, Featured Story, Local Spotlight, News, Ramona, Sheriff/Fire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Comments for “Children’s safety first priority for Ramona’s Santa Maria Creek cleanup”

  1. MainStreetBiz

    So let me get this straight … they held a meeting and the enviromentalists that have all of the real power like Fish and Game and the Corp of Engineers did not even show?

    When the other enviromentals mentioned mitigation and compensation for clearing weeds Jacob's says "the county will NOT do an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and said the agencies could PUT THEM IN JAIL FOR CLEANING UP THE CREEK"…. SO NOTHING GOT ACCOMPLISHED!

    The usual cast of media hungry local do nothings like Piva showed up to get a picture in the paper and waste everyone's time.

    The last time I talked to Piva he wanted donated materials and labor for a sign across main street. Guess what … that was another waste of time.


    • Jason Esobar Jr.

      I agree, it sounds like a bunch of local nonothings went downtown to talk to a bunch of city donothings and (guess what) they decided to get nothing done except smile for the cameras!

      Say Chezzzzzzzz (ball)

      The real sign that this was a waste of time is when the Corp. of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife did not even show up. They are the ones that have all of the power. Should have just gone home right then.

  2. Anonymous

    When horses were regularly ridden through the creek bed it stayed much nicer and equestrians were able to call in reports of vagrants or illegal activity. Somewhere along the line we were told not to ride in the creek Ed as its a “riparian” area and that’s when things got really bad. Clear it out to be used as a horse trail and cut will stay nice.

  3. Helen Cawyer

    It is about time something was done about this creek. I believe it would be better and more scenic to leave some native brush along the edges to preserve wildlife nesting sites and so forth, but leaving old shopping carts to rust away down there and of course allowing drug contacts to work in the area must be stopped.

    Several years ago, my dog drank a few laps of water from that creek. I didn't catch him in time to stop him, but I also didn't think it mattered much since the creek was running with fresh rain water. WRONG! He came down with what the vet diagnosed as "coccidia" a disease common to chickens and other birds. I recognized it as what we
    used to call "coccidiosis" which we had to vaccinate our chickens for years ago.

    I don't know if this pollution has ever been cleaned up, but you certainly do not want your children wading in or playing with those waters. I hope the cleanup is successful however or whoever it is done by. It is really necessary to clean this creek up!

  4. mrs north county

    How about a link to the do's and don'ts for flood control activities, the article mentions from ca fish & game, kelly fisher,

  5. Torry

    Mrs north, here is a scanned copy I have. Sorry for the poor quality.

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