March 20, 2006
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with Santiago Oaks Regional Park Senior Ranger, Don Zeigler, regarding the effects of the Windy Ridge Fire on Santiago Oaks Regional Park. Don was kind enough to take me on a vehicle tour of the park in order to survey the damage of the fire. About 85-90% of the park was burned. Due to the severity of the damage, the park will be completely closed until April 2, 2007. On that date the lower section of the park will be opened to trail users. This section of the park to be opened starts at the ranger station and ends at the bottom of the first Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“bitchĂ˘â‚¬Â?. Basically, the only opened trails will be the fire roads that are located on the lower section of the park, for now.
The next sections to be opened will be the ridgelines leading to Irvine Park. None of the single tracks will be opened until trail repairs have been completed. Realistically, it will take a tremendous amount of volunteer work in order to get these trails re-opened. The fire burned all of the brush making the legal and illegal trails very visible, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“scaringĂ˘â‚¬Â? of the hillsides included. We will be asked to put together crews to repair the trails. At this time, we donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t have any dates on when the second phase of trail openings will occur, but my best guess would be another 1-2 months for the ridgeline and up to a year for the balance of the trail system. I will notify everyone as we move along through the process. In my opinion, we can accelerate the process once the initial shock wears off.
In order to effectively open the first sections, SHARE will donate 8-10 signs. This will go a long way with the County in regards to showing our dedication to the parks.
As you know the park is officially closed to all users, but many people have chosen to ignore that fact. Last weekend alone, there were 90 cars counted over near the Weir Canyon entrance, plus additional users coming in through Irvine Park. The will begin ticketing this week. Because of this they have requested that SHARE set up a Trail Patrol program for the park. I will need volunteers to sign up through me for weekends and evenings until dark. Each volunteer will be required to sign in at the park office in order to avoid any confusion. If you are already a Trail Patrol member through SHARE you will be able to use your Trail Patrol jersey, if not, the rangers office has yellow vests for you to wear why patrolling. Those vests will need to be returned at the end of your patrol. It is important to wear either of those so the patrolling rangers can identify you as an approved volunteer. When you get out there you will understand the need, you can see every person on every trail. There is no place to hide.
Our job as patrollers will be to persuade people to stay out of the park so we can work to get everything re-opened. If you have a problem with someone you should alert the ranger so he/she can take it from there. In my opinion, very few people will object.
If you are interested in volunteering for the Trail Patrol, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your information. I will be providing the park with a list soon. Of course, you can be added later if necessary. Trail Patrols will start immediately.
If you have any questions, please let me know and I will do my best to answer them.