09 February 2015

Yet Another Ramble in the Hills Above Carbon Canyon

Fog blankets Carbon Canyon and nearby areas in this view, taken this morning from a ridgeline above the canyon looking towards the San Gabriel Mountains and Mt. Baldy.  Click on any photo to see the set in separate windows in enlarged views.
Today's walk, in company with my spouse and the 40-year resident of the canyon who has been guide for the last couple of walks posted here, took in a former ranch road that mostly wound through the Orange County portion of Carbon Canyon with a bit on the San Bernardino County side.

While wading through wet grasses in some light fog, as well as stepping over sandstone rocks and brushing by tree branches, bushes and poison oak, we observed a great many native plants, whose names, characteristics and uses were pointed out by our highly-knowledgeable guide.

A narrow trail cuts through a wide array of diverse plant life, including flowering bushes, walnut trees, shrubs, and grasses in the hills above Carbon Canyon.  This is the kind of habitat being bulldozed now at Canyon Hills and which could be at Madrona and Hidden Oaks.
Because much of the overgrown road passes along the south side of Carbon Canyon Road, the consistent noise of commuter traffic was heard much of the time, but there were many instances in which those sounds were muted or even quieted.

A couple of spots would have provided excellent views, except for the fog, which still provided an interesting ambiance for the jaunt.

One of many flowering plants spotted along this morning's walk in the hills above Carbon Canyon.
There were also a few locations that featured clusters of tall, wide-spreading oaks (which, hopefully, will be spared the ravages of the gold-spotted oak borer, recently discovered locally for the first time in Anaheim Hills), with flat benches in the landscape that could provide nice stops for a picnic or just a moment of contemplation in this still-undisturbed patch of oak and walnut woodland habitat, which is disappearing gradually as hillsides and canyon areas remain the last frontier of suburban development.

Fortunately, this area does not appear to be suitable for development, because of the steepness of the terrain and the lack of flat areas that could accommodate housing.  Someday, perhaps, there may even be the possibility of adding this beautiful landscape, at the side door of Sleepy Hollow, to Chino Hills State Park.

Another type of flowering plant along the trail.
The walk was short, only about an hour-and-a-half, though a stop or two could have made the trip an hour or so longer.

Even if large-scale housing projects, like Canyon Hills, Madrona and Hidden Oaks (let's remind ourselves again that these would total roughly 360 more houses, 1,500 more people and 3,600 daily car trips to the Canyon) continue to be approved and built, this location likely will remain a respite, fewer though these may be, from the onslaught.

Here was an impressive berry-yielding bush encountered on this morning's walk.
Which seems an apropos place to bring up Chino Hills council member Ed Graham's latest public utterances about development in the city, as presented in his column in this month's Butterfield Stageline.

Graham stated that, when he moved to the city in the late 1980s, he was against all future development, as if this preface would soften what comes next and as if such a point of view, especially nearly thirty years ago when Chino Hills had barely developed, was realistic.  He then remarked that, upon entering local politics and government, he discovered that development could not be stopped.

This was a striking sight--a pale sun radiating through the fog with a large oak tree in silhouette.  This was taken at a flat bench at which there were several large and beautiful oaks--emblematic of what makes Carbon Canyon a unique resource.
Now, what exactly is meant by this is not clear.  Did he mean all development or some development?

He went on to note that those who profess their love for nature and "coyote habitat" and protest development in those areas where they live are essentially denying the right of others to do the same; therefore, this is hypocritical (Graham went on to say that "I love those people!").

A flowering vine, lush grasses, an angled and spreading oak--this view gives a few examples of the gorgeous settings found all over Carbon Canyon, but which are endangered by large-scale housing developments.
Now, beyond the fact that "coyote habitat" is not what people specifically look to protect--rather, it is the oak and walnut woodland habitat, which supports many thousands of species of trees, plants, and animals (including, yes, the wily coyote, but also deer, bobcat, squirrels, owls, hawks and so on), there is the simple matter of logic.

By Graham's reasoning, no one should ever protest any development anywhere, at any time, for any reason.  After all, virtually everyone lives where, at some point, there was no residence.

This view looks downslope along a gully that runs from the ridgeline down to Carbon [Canyon] Creek, and shows oaks, walnuts, grasses and other plants that characterize the oak and walnut woodland habitat of Carbon Canyon.
In fairness, this way of thinking is obviously not unique to Graham.  The issue, though, is that most residents of a place like Carbon Canyon don't want to deny others from living here--they want a "here" to be here.

The specter of 350 or so houses being built in the near and long-term in approved developments like Madrona (162 units), Canyon Hills (76), Stonefield (24) and the pending Hidden Oaks (102) is that the canyon cannot accommodate this number of residences and still be Carbon Canyon.  Smaller development, in terms of numbers, would probably be acceptable to a majority of canyon residents.  But, the large-scale tracts create a situation characterized here recently as overfilling the glass--that is, there are limits, definable in very concrete ways.

Another fine view along the route.
Carbon Canyon Road cannot be widened and proposed "improvements", meaning new signals at Fairway Drive and Canyon Hills Road, are like the "fingers in the dike" metaphor.  An already overburdened road would only become more so.  Commuter times increase and emissions from idling vehicles affects residents and the trees and plant life in the canyon.

The fire risk in the canyon would grow worse, because most of these residences are being planned for ridgetop and upper elevations of hills, where winds blow stronger, smaller canyons and gullies channel flames to tnhose locations, and the likelihood of wildfire damage becomes greater.  There is a reason why CalTrans District 12 placed signs on the Brea side of the canyon that identify it has a "Hazardous Fire Area."  The conditions are hardly different on the Chino Hills portion.

More eye-catching plant life on today's jaunt.
Our diminishing oak and walnut woodland habitat would be significantly degraded and this habitat makes the canyon what it is.  Remove the habitat and what distinguishes the canyon from the rest of the suburban sprawl around it?

Finally, these developments all propose larger homes and lot sizes than the average and, in this period of serious drought, it is simply bad public policy to build more of these residences while simultaneously asking existing residents to significantly reduce their water use.

The outlines of the old ranch road are still discernible in this view along this morning's ramble.
How does council member Graham (and others who share his views) propose to explain why these valid points are subservient to his overriding proposition that property owners have a right to profit from their land, which is a valid point of view when it correlates with general public benefit, but shouldn't trump the latter at all costs.

Ed Graham has been a public servant of Chino Hills for nearly three decades and has been a significant part of its development into a highly-desirable and effectively-managed community.  He should justly be credited for what he has accomplished.

This is a beautiful spot of several large, mature oaks and a canopy of grass not far away from Sleepy Hollow.
Unfortunately, his characterization of legitimate concern about development--which, by the way, is why residents passed Measure U years ago--doesn't do justice to a complex issue.  Carbon Canyon is especially important here, because it is a much different part of the city than the rest of it, offering a unique set of conditions that require leadership and solutions that account for those circumstances.

Publicly stating that challenging development is hypocritical on the basis of flawed logic indicates an ideological perspective that seemingly precludes critically thinking about the uniqueness of the canyon.   It is reasonable to have differing opinions, provided the holders of those views are ready and able to defend them persuasively.  With Hidden Oaks coming soon before the Council, Graham and his colleagues have the opportunity to hear from and explain to their constituents about these views.

Let's hope these exchanges prove productive and responsible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hooray!! You're okay! Now back to enjoying your latest post!