By Karen Brainard
For the past year and a half, the county of San Diego has been working on establishing an emergency evacuation route for Ramona and is in the final stages, said Trish Boaz from the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Working with her department have been Ramona Community Planning Group members and representatives of the Ramona Municipal Water District, CalFire and the county’s Department of Public Works, she said.
Many Ramonans called for an emergency evacuation route after the traffic jams that occurred during the 2007 Witch Creek fire as residents tried to flee town.
According to a map provided by Boaz, the proposed emergency route would cut across land north of Ramona Airport. It would head west from Montecito Way through property known as the Davis-Eagle Ranch, which is now part of the county Grasslands Preserve, to connect to Rangeland Road. From Rangeland Road, drivers could head south to Highland Valley Road, then west to Archie Moore Road and then follow Archie Moore to state Route 67.
“The problem was getting from our (county) property line west to Rangeland Road,” said Boaz.
In between lies the north property line of the Santa Maria wastewater treatment plant where sprayfields are located, she said, which is why the Ramona water district was brought into the discussion.
Biological surveys are being conducted on the federally-protected Stephens’ kangaroo rats, which have been found in that area, she said. Those surveys, paid for by the county, are expected to be completed in August.
“It’s all about balance and working it out,” Boaz said.
If any Stephens’ kangaroo rats are found on the property, the county would work with wildlife agencies to see what could be done so the federally-protected species would not be impacted, said Boaz. Because it is just for an emergency route, the county may not have to take mitigation measures, she said.
Boaz said she does not anticipate any costs for the water district.
No private property would be involved in this route, according to Boaz. A dirt road exists on the county land but not on the water district land, she said, adding that no changes will be made on the district property for the route.
She also noted that the designated evacuation route will depend on the way the wind is blowing.
“Access will be controlled by the sheriff and CalFire,” she said.