05 October 2008

Chino Hills State Park Visitor Center Started!

For those of you who've driven down (or up) Carbon Canyon Road the last few weeks and seen the flurry of activity there next to the regional park, there is a Chino Hills Discovery Center being built for Chino Hills State Park.

Work actually began a few years ago with some clearing of old citrus trees, but has started again with the complete removal of trees and the general clearing of the land.

From what I can tell, the funding for the center, which is to accomodate up to 100 visitors, may partially be from Proposition 40, "The California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks and Coastal Protection Act of 2002" (don't you just love these legislation names?). In the act, there is some $12.5 million for "park entrance and facilities" that has been appropriated year to year since the act's passage and there is an one for that amount for the current 08-09 fiscal year.

There is, however, said to be some substantial funding from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in exchange for the California Department of Parks and Recreation providing an easement for an access road to the Diemer treatment plant, which is located on the crest of the hills above Yorba Linda. Because the city of Yorba Linda rushed through a development plan for housing on land formerly owned by oil giant Shell and its development subsidiary, Aera Energy Corp., the main access road used since for decades is now part of the housing tract, and, guess what? The neighbors are complaining! So, why not build another road over on the Carbon Canyon side, because, after all, no one lives there. We just have a public park and what's a little slice of that in the service of a precious resource like water (a mini example, perhaps, of the debate over drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge?)! Anyway, for more on the MWD road, check out the Hills for Everyone website (see the links bar of this blog.)

Other than that, I have been unable to find anything about the project on the California Parks and Recreation website, aside from the listing of appropriations for Prop 40 and a listing for a state parks interpreter job opening that mentions the center. There is also a vague mention of it on the website of the Chino Hills State Park support group, the Chino Hills State Park Interpretive Association.

I'm a little surprised that there hasn't been any significant publicity or information about the project in the media, which isn't to say that no one has tried to pitch it.

Incidentally, an interesting potential dynamic to the Discovery Center has been at issue at other state park projects in recent years, most notably in my experience, Pio Pico State Historic Park in Whittier. This is that, although there has been bond money to do "bricks-and-mortar" projects, such as new construction, restoration and preservation, and the like, we all know that Governor Schwarzenegger, as the budget crisis was worsening earlier this year, proposed shutting down dozens of state parks. What this means, as our economic downturn is finally being admitted now to be a recession and one that could last longer than any in our history, is that there may not actually be the funds to staff and maintain the work that's been done. This has largely been true at the Pico park and could happen at the Chino Hills Discovery Center, as well. This all, obviously, remains to be seen.

At any rate, the planned completion date is sometime in 2009, so, if all goes well on the construction, you should start seeing the "bricks and mortar" coming in fairly soon, dependent, I suppose, on whether our drought continues or not!

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