Notably, while there is an established trail system in Chino Hills, including some fine ones off of Grand Avenue, Chino Hills Parkway and other locations where the views are excellent, there are no public trails of any significance in Carbon Canyon, which offers unparalleled experiences not found elsewhere in the city.
There still has to be, once a plan is submitted to and reviewed by the City of Chino Hills, a new Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which will raise the matter of significant adverse impacts to the environment that could affect the approval of the project. EXCEPT, that the City could (and, in fact, almost certainly would) impose Statements of Overriding Consideration (SOCs) that would provide grounds for approval based on perceived benefits to the city (though not necesarily the canyon) from the project that would override those impacts revealed in the EIR.
Moreover, the impacts that will be brought to bear by the Madrona, Canyon Hills, and Stonefield projects, totaling 262 units, will not be considered under the Hidden Oaks project when the EIR is done, because those projects are not completed.
|These flags are other indicators of ongoing testing at the project site.|
Another area of concern for Hidden Oaks is not just trails and the massive amount of cut-and-fill involving huge tonnage of dirt hauled out and brought in for fill, but also the matter of where water runoff from streets and other elements of the development is being directed. The land in question is some 500 acres from Carbon Canyon Road all the way south into Soquel Canyon, so the plan evidently is to dump the runoff into Soquel Creek.
Today's walk took in the sylvan scenes of Rock Canyon, even with the extreme dryness of our long-term drought, and despite the brutal clearing of the Hidden Oaks property when it was approved for development nearly twenty years ago and some 2,000 trees, including majestic oaks, were bulldozed before the developer went bankrupt and the project died (that's another sore subject--letting someone destroy on that scale without reasonable assurances, like a bond, that they could actually carry out the project!)
|The creek in Rock Canyon descends steeply and narrowly as it moves southeast towards Soquel Canyon. The cattle trail at right winds through and along its banks.|
The canyon terminates by joining Soquel Creek, which runs along the northern edge of Soquel Canyon and even that watercourse, which usually has at least some flow most years, is totally dry, at least at the confluence with Rock Canyon. As noted above, the project's acreage includes a portion of Soquel Canyon and even climbs a bit of the southfacing hill, the other side of which is Chino Hills State Park.
|The creek at Rock Canyon as it terminates at Soquel Creek in Soquel Canyon.|
There is another consideration: overgrazing by cattle, especially in the midst of this terrible drought, is dessicating the landscape, here and throughout Carbon Canyon. This was noticed in the last significant rain when eroded soil poured onto Carbon Canyon Road just west of Chino Hills Parkway for the steep, denuded slopes below the "maternity hotel" perched on the ridgetop. That didn't just happen and the problem will be found elsewhere in which cattle continue to graze where the plant material has diminished.
|Soquel Creek, which usually has some water in it but is, of course, dry during this debilitating drought, as it moves westward from the confluence with Rock Canyon creek.|
Then, there is the worsening traffic, increased fire risk, excessive use of water and everything else that makes tract developments like this anachronisms, relics of a time now gone when it was thought that massive building could go on seemingly indefinitely. Yet, instead of adjusting to changing realities in our environment, the same framework continues to be applied. That framework is faulty and failing, but so long as the developers make money and governments serve as willing accomplices, then it will still hold sway, leaving the reckoning to those who come along later.
|Another pretty spot along Rock Creek even in the driest of situations.|
Those who enjoy walks like those taken today have time, but it's fleeting. The fellow hiker on today's trip has enjoyed this walk for some forty years and the prospect of losing access to Rock Canyon is a tough one to contemplate. Practical considerations are leading him to push to public access through a trail through Rock Canyon while also working to move the runoff to another location and in another way. Hopefully, at the very least, these worthy goals can be realized.
|A view from the Hidden Oaks site northeastward towards Carbon Canyon and, in the distance, the San Gabriel Mountains. Views like this lure developers, home buyers, and preservationists as competitors vie for their vested interests.|
How many more houses can be built in Carbon Canyon before it is no longer what attracts most who live there?
How much worse can the traffic get (and it is getting worse, as anyone who drives Carbon Canyon Road during commuter hours can attest, despite the traffic studies paid for by developers that suggest otherwise)?
How much more water will be taken that we increasingly can't afford to provide for these projects?
How much more of a fire risk will there be on these wind-swept ridgetops with steep canyons ideal for driving fire upslope?
How much longer will local governments continue to operate in an outdated fashion when it comes to large housing tracts in the urban/wildland interface?
Are these questions continuing to be rhetorical?