30 September 2014

Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center Exhibit Opening

Tables for the Chino Hills State Park Interpretive Association, Hills for Everyone and other groups greeted visitors to the official opening of the state park's Discovery Center exhibit.
Last Saturday morning, the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center officially opened its exhibit space to the public, after a lengthy delay following the center's opening some time ago.  In front of the facility were tables from California State Parks, the Chino Hills State Park Interpretive Association, and Hills for Everyone, the latter association being the driving force in preserving the land that became the park nearly 35 years ago.

Discovery Center exhibit components like this great contour map of the state park and surrounding areas give a vivid picture of the park's ecosystem, plant and animal life, recreational opportunities and overall value in a highly-developed megalopolis.
First, encouraged to check out a PowerPoint-aided lecture, a detour was taken into the multi-purpose space across the entry plaza.  California State Parks historian James Newland gave an interesting talk on the many political, economic and other issues surrounding the designation of Yosemite as the first state park in 1864, though problems with its management led to its reassignment under the fledgling national park system several decades later.

High-quality interactives abound, including microscopic views of animal life and this light-up display showing the habitat of different animal species within the park--in this case, the very broad sweep of habitat occupied by mountain lions throughout the 14,000-acre park and beyond.  This is a major reason to preserve as much of the Puente-Chino Hills complex to allow for habitat preservation for all kinds of plant and animal species.
Newland pointed out that the Republican Party took advantage of its Civil War-era dominance in California to push the project to make Yosermite a park with Congress and that identifying the connections between politicians, landowners near the site, and others were crucial to understanding how the project was pursued.

Another interesting interactive feature allows for viewing under magnification some of the insects found within the Chino Hills State Park area.
Although the creation of Yosemite as a park was not as altruistic as some interpretations have stated, Newland's main point was that "it got done" and the designation set the template for what has been called "America's best idea," that is, the creation of the national parks system (though Newland was quick to add that the 280-plus California State Parks system is pretty amazing, as well, provided it gets adequate funding.)

A microscope allows visitors to view some of the smaller inhabitants of the diverse ecosystem within the park.
Then, it was on to the exhibit, which was in a space that was not particularly large, perhaps around 700-800 square feet, but it was well laid out, provided interesting comparisons and contrasts with the park and the urban spaces around it and gave good information on the flora and fauna to be found in the 14,000-plus acre park.

A particularly important component of the exhibit was the "Living on the Urban Edge" section, discussing the interactions of the wildlands in the natural environment and the densely populated and heavily developed suburban region around it.  This area was very well thought out and executed.
Interactives abounded, including magnified examples of plant and animal life located in the park, a light-up map showing the range of habitat for certain animals, such as the mountain lion, and others showing the impact of suburbia on the natural environment.  There is plenty for kids of all ages to see and do as they learn about the park and the local environment.

Another crucial element to the displays concerned the devastating effects of wildfire, particularly with continuing suburban encroachment on wildland areas, such as within the state park.  
There was little about social or cultural history, though some mention of native Indians (though the use of the term Tongva to denote the aboriginal people is being seriously called into question as several groups of Gabrieleno Indians claim legitimacy,) but, given the fact that the park is largely based on its natural features, the focus on plant and animal life makes sense.

With all of the great material indoors, it shouldn't be forgotten that improvements have been made to the short nature trail just outside the Discovery Center, with new signage such as this that further discuss the important interrelationships between the natural and built environments.  It's easy to poke fun or dismiss the "circle of life," but the truth is that we're very closely connected to the plant and animal habitats we assume we "control."
In all, the exhibit is a thoughtfully-planned and well-executed orientation that gives visitors a good overview of a true gem amid our expanding megalopolis and it's light years advanced from the time of static exhibits that used to be (well, still can be in many cases) standard at park sites.  The folks at State Parks are to be commended for crafting something that works better with changing learning styles, interests and ways of accessing information.

Even with our drought-parched landscape, the Carbon Canyon/Soquel Canyon intersection provides a beautiful setting for the Discovery Center.  The clear blue sky and collection of cloud formations added to the scenery.

26 September 2014

Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center Exhibits Opening Sunday

This Sunday the 28th, from 10 a.m. to Noon, an exhibit will be unveiled at the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center, located at 4500 Carbon Canyon Road in Brea, just east of Carbon Canyon Regional Park.

Although the Center has been open for a few years now, the exhibits have been long delayed.  An article in tomorrow morning's Champion does not specify the content in the displays, but they will, of course, detail the natural and cultural history of the state park and surrounding area.

In addition to a ribbon-cutting ceremony, there will be presentations from a state park environmental scientist, a showing of a state parks video commemorating the system's 150th birthday through the establishment of the Yosemite state park (now a national park), and walks through the newly-revamped nature trail that surrounds the center.

This long-awaited opening is another milestone in the development of the Discovery Center and the continued enhancement of Chino Hills State Park, a jewel of over 14,000 acres of preserved land in a heavily-urbanized environment.

07 September 2014

Brea Fire Station #4 Grand Opening

On Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., a grand opening celebration was held for the grand opening of the revamped Station 4 of the Brea Fire Department in Olinda Village. 

From a very rudimentary outpost of long standing at the shopping center just off Carbon Canyon Road has developed a portable structure and a steel station house, as well as a container for the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) organization.

After the obligatory speeches by fire officials and city leaders, visitors toured the facility, enjoyed a barbeque lunch and ice cream, and visited booths for the department, the CERT group and the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council.

At about noon, there were probably seventy-five or more persons at the event, though after 1 p.m. the crowd thinned considerably.  Overall, the event seems to have gone very smoothly.

There was some controversy, however, about the extent to which the facility was considered accessible as required by ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, especially regarding the portable building.  City staff determined that, because the building was not considered a fully public one, it did not need to meet those standards.  The station house can be used for public events, but accessible restrooms would only be available through rented porta-potties, rather than the constructed restrooms in the building.

Still, the presence of a better station, with more personnel and better equipment, as well as the remarkably well-equipped CERT container, which reflects the superior organizational skills of the folks who volunteer to serve (and city staff) in Brea, is an important part of the enhanced fire protection presence for Carbon Canyon.

04 September 2014

Brea Fire Station #4 Grand Opening in Olinda Village This Saturday!

This Saturday, 6 September from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Fire Station #4 of the Brea Fire Department, which is in a two-year agreement of shared command with the Fullerton Fire Department, is having its grand opening at its location at 198 Olinda Place in the Olinda Village shopping center off Carbon Canyon Road.  Remarks by local officials will begin at 11:15 a.m.

There has been a small facility at the site for years, but a rehabilitation includes new structures and other improvements to the staff, which will also be staffed better from the human and material resources standpoints.

Click on the image to see it enlarged in a new window (easier to read the text!)
Given the near-disaster of the Freeway Complex Fire of November 2008, better fire protection for the entire Carbon Canyon area has been a big priority and this station enhancement is part of the effort.

Fire personnel from Brea will be serving up a barbeque, there will be site tours, and the Carbon Canyon Fire Safe Council will have a presence along with the Brea CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) group.  Fire prevention and mitigation information will also be available.

Those interested in seeing the improved station are encouraged to come down, take a look, meet city and fire department leaders and see what is being done to strengthen fire protection in the Canyon.

03 September 2014

No Speeding Message Boards on Carbon Canyon Road

This morning two portable electronic message boards were posted along Carbon Canyon Road in Brea with the westbound one located between the former Manely Friends stable and the old La Vida Mineral Springs Resort and the eastbound one across from the Olinda Ranch subdivision a little west of Carbon Canyon Regional Park.

The boards flashed three distinct sections of the message:  "Brea Police Dept.;" "Watch Your Speed;" "We Do."

A cynic might wonder why this was being done now.

Was there an immediate reason for putting the boards out?  Was it the most recent road closure due to an accident?   Was unsafe speed the (or a) cause of the crash?  If so, was there something distinct about the incident that would lead to these warnings?

And, what will the boards be accompanied by?  Will there be more patrols by the department in the canyon?  If so, how often and when?

In a decade of living here, this blogger has never seen anything quite like this.  There have been plenty of crashes, many by reckless driving of one form or another, a dozen or so fatalities, who knows how many more injuries, plenty of damage to public and private property.

Yet, now, the message boards come out.  Really, electronic signs.  In some ways, no different than existing "analog" signs that suggest that radar is used in the Canyon (which they, in truth, rarely are and always during the day, not evenings [and weekend evenings] when the worst behavior is displayed.)  So, is there anything more to this than just the signs, which do probably cause most cars to at least slow down for the time they are there?  Will there be more of a police presence in the Canyon?

A cynic might suggest that there should be a fourth part of the electronic message:  "We'll see."