Environmental rules stymie growth, Ramona residents tell Jacob

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob talks about wildlife agencies’ environmental restrictions. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob talks about wildlife agencies’ environmental restrictions. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

By Karen Brainard

Negative impacts of environmental restrictions was a recurring subject at County Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s Ramona Revitalization Steering Committee meeting in the Ramona Library Community Room.

Jacob conducts the committee meeting twice a year and residents who serve as subcommittee chairs provide updates on such issues as parks and recreation, economic development and public safety. About 15 additional residents sat in on the May 30 meeting.

While discussing Santa Maria Creek, Ramona Community Planning Group Chair Jim Piva talked about efforts to clean up the creek bed without violating any environmental restrictions. The overgrowth in the creek bed has created concerns for public safety as it provides a place for criminals and drug users to hide and for homeless to live, according to authorities.

Sgt. Brian Hout with the sheriff’s Ramona substation reported that the sheriff’s department conducted two sweeps of the creek bed that netted numerous arrests in the past five weeks, and there appeared to be no more encampments.

Residents fear the heavy brush in the creek bed will cause future flooding and contribute fuel for fires.

Piva said he has been in contact with the Ramona Municipal Water District and it plans to begin cleaning up the creek area behind Ramona Community Park, which it owns, right after bird nesting season ends on Sept. 15, as requested by wildlife agencies. Piva said the planning group can oversee the creek bed cleanup west of Seventh Street.

When Piva was asked how the creek will be cleaned out, he responded, “Let’s just be very, very clear — there will be no tractors going into any sensitive areas at all.”

Volunteers will hand-clear trash and invasive, non-native species, and county staff will flag such plants  before the cleanup begins, said Piva.

Both he and Jacob, who has been a supporter of the creek cleanup, noted they are following the guidelines set by wildlife agencies and want to do everything according to law.

“We want this to be an annual or ongoing event.  We don’t want the creek to get clogged,” Piva said.

Jacob told the steering committee that the county will not forget the Santa Maria Creek Greenway Park and horse trail plans.

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Carol Fowler, center and Nancy Roy, right, listen as Elaine Lyttleton gives a report on the H.E.A.R.T. mural project. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

“Ultimately when it’s cleaned up and the trail’s in place, it’s going to reduce the undesirable elements that are making their home in this creek bed,” said Jacob.

Vernal pools in downtown Ramona were a focus of Carol Fowler’s Economic Development report. Environmental agencies have identified endangered or sensitive species inhabiting the seasonal and temporary wetland areas.

“Vernal pools do impact our economic viability,” said Fowler.

She said three areas in Ramona have been identified with a high saturation of vernal pools: behind Ramona High School, on Kalbaugh Street and on Main Street across from Stater Bros. shopping center. The latter location is next to an abandoned building that has been vandalized as illustrated by photos Fowler presented at the meeting. The building has been on the market for several years, she said.

“Everybody who is a developer is afraid of the vernal pools,” said Fowler.

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