In light of the ongoing efforts of the San Lorenzo River Alliance, what are your chief concerns and ideas, and those you are hearing from your constituents, about improving the San Lorenzo River?
The San Lorenzo River Alliance recognizes how essential the river is to the environmental health, economic vitality and public safety of the valley and the entire river corridor. I met recently with representatives of the alliance, whose members include the Valley Women’s Club and Resource Conservation District—both of whom have been active in watershed protection of the upper San Lorenzo River for years. We have much to learn from other communities that have restored their riverways, the results of which speak volumes about the potential for the San Lorenzo River. We have an opportunity to make tremendous improvements in water and environmental quality while significantly contributing to the regional economy due to increased access and recreational use.
My most immediate concern is public safety along the river, specifically the illegal encampments, the disposal of hazardous waste such as needles, and the pervasive human waste and garbage. Addressing the situation would lead to better permanent solutions to the negative environmental impacts we now face. Assuring safe access to the river would also make recreational use more inviting and accessible as well as increase community engagement through art and education events. River events of all types draw visitors and locals for outdoor recreation and education, all of which contribute positively to the local economy and our quality of life. The private sector is very familiar with this dynamic. As an example, the Quality Inn in Ben Lomond is undergoing a renovation in order for the facility to face the San Lorenzo River because the owners know that the river is an attractive feature that draws visitors to the property. The water quality and natural habitat of the river could be revitalized while becoming one of the most popular destinations in our region. However, public safety must come first before we are in a position to substantially improve the San Lorenzo River corridor.
What is your office doing to address concerns of Boulder Creek’s West Hilton Drive residents who oppose the use of their road by logging trucks?
My office has been working with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and county staff to identify alternate routes so that West Hilton Drive would be eliminated as a haul route. We identified and proposed reopening of an unmaintained County right-of-way, Upper Bloom Grade Road—an alternative that is now being considered more closely. Reopening that section of road has the advantage of providing additional protection from wildland fires. A second possible alternative has also been identified by the forester working on behalf of the timberland owners. I share the opinion that West Hilton Drive is not an appropriate haul route. My office also asked for the timber harvest plan to be recirculated and reopened for public comment.