Manes & Trails: Santa Maria Creek – A trail would address concerns
As concern for public safety grows, the push comes from many directions to get the Santa Maria Creek cleaned up. Every year the creek bed is cleaned up by volunteers, and tons of trash are removed.
In April, volunteers removed more than three tons of trash in about four hours! The most common trash was sandwich baggies and plastic bags, but items such as grocery carts, pool slides, kiddie pools and mattresses also were removed. All of this debris is a public safety hazard and a serious environmental concern.
Additionally, the sheriff’s Mounted Patrol sweeps the creek from time to time and in April, in preparation for the annual Creek to Bay clean-up, in one day, “removed” 17 people from the creek. That’s another serious public safety hazard and environmental concern that is unlikely to decrease due to the privacy, the overgrowth and solitary conditions of the creek. Drug paraphernalia is found in the creek as well and I believe I read three of these people were arrested the day of the sweep.
Brush clearing is a whole other matter as flooding and fire concerns grow. The 2007 fire burned right down the creek bed, spreading into areas that otherwise would have probably gone untouched — placing more neighbors in immediate danger by carrying the fire into landlocked neighborhoods that the fire department could not reach due to the limited access.
As Angus Tobiason and other citizens push to get the creek cleaned up, word is spreading of the potential dangers throughout our community. Ramona is thankful and trail supporters are hopeful.
Trail supporters created the Ramona Community Trails and Pathways Master Plan many years ago. It was approved and adopted by the county in 2005 and this very area is on that plan. A trail approximately seven miles long along the creek, not in it, that runs from the Cleveland National Forest lands through the Community Park then out to the Ramona Grasslands has been sitting on the paper plan waiting to become reality. Trails can provide much of the desired community protection, and at little to no cost to anyone.
As concern of flooding and public safety becomes more apparent, it makes sense to those of us who are familiar with and support the trails plan for Ramona to begin to build the Santa Maria Creek Greenway trail. A trail along the creek would provide a free patrol, as trail users would keep an eye on the overgrowth and undergrowth that clogs the waterway, their presence would deter crime and would discourage crowds and litter within the creek.
Many trail users are part of a volunteer patrol of some sort and fill out reports either to the county or to the sheriff directly, and this free service could extend to our creek.
The Sheriff’s Department has been a staunch supporter of the Santa Maria Creek Greenway project for many years and has backed the notion that crime would decrease significantly if there were a usable trail along the creek.
The portion of the creek within Ramona Community Park has a trail along or near much of it already, with some improvements needed.
Ramona Trails Association helps to maintain the trail, and Scout troops in Ramona contribute a great deal to the maintenance and marking of the trail.
There is an existing staging (parking) area within the park and at the Ramona Grasslands, and there are plans, again on paper, for others that would serve the Santa Maria Creek Greenway, so those are also of no cost to anyone or any agency or the Ramona Municipal Water District.
The trail on public or agency lands could easily be created quickly and made usable with little funding, if any, by the use of volunteers.
The biggest challenge in getting this particular trail on the ground is working with property owners who live along the creek.
Many have put fencing across the creek, which creates a catch for debris that flows with the water when the creek is running. Some property owners are willing and excited about having a trail along the creek.
I completely understand some have reservations about building a trail near their homes or property, but I have one right in front of my home and never have a problem. I also have never met a trail supporter who wants to trespass or feels the need to try to take something away from our neighbors.
To get this project accomplished, the community must work together and with the county, and route the trail appropriately.
Greenway projects are created all across the USA and around the world and have been extremely successful in creating recreation in many forms as well as public services, tourism and connections to other areas.
A greenway is a “long, narrow piece of land, where vegetation is encouraged, which is managed for public recreation and slow travel.” In areas such as Ramona, riparian zones are also used as a location for greenway projects where they provide lineal corridors of regional significance, which because of flooding hazards have been retained as open space.
From Boise River Greenbelt in Idaho to Dequindre Cut in Michigan and in every state from Mexico to Canada and from California to Rhode Island, greenways are more and more prominent.
These routes are reserved exclusively for non-motorized journeys and developed in an integrated manner that enhances the environment and quality of life of the surrounding area.
The Santa Maria Creek Greenway is important to our community for so many reasons. I am convinced the completion of a trail would pretty much solve the issues we face with our creek. I hope to see the trail project moving along sooner rather than later.
Karen Carlson, a Ramona resident, is past president of Ramona Trails Association and an avid trails advocate active with many agencies, organizations, and committees. For questions or comments, contact Karen and Cricket at email@example.com.
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