A tenth anniversary, by L. Tim Wallace

We've done it: a tenth anniversary!  

We began in 1991 as a task force of individuals interested in activating a fire response program for Claremont Canyon. Later, in 2001, joining forces with Friends of Claremont Canyon, we formed a 501c3 nonprofit organization broadening our interest to include trail development, natural landscape restoration, long range fire risk reduction planning, and educational tours of the canyon led by experts. Working with volunteers we have helped make the canyon more fire-safe, more natural, and more accessible by trail.

Some of the original 2001 board members, l. to r., Klaus Burmeister, Nancy Mueller, Tim Wallace, Tamia Marg, Bill McClung, Joan Collignon, Barry Miller and Joe Engbeck. (Not pictured are Marion Brenner, Betty Croly, Marilyn Goldhaber and Ronnie Rogers.)

Some of the original 2001 board members, l. to r., Klaus Burmeister, Nancy Mueller, Tim Wallace, Tamia Marg, Bill McClung, Joan Collignon, Barry Miller and Joe Engbeck. (Not pictured are Marion Brenner, Betty Croly, Marilyn Goldhaber and Ronnie Rogers.)

Great team-work between the Conservancy, U.C., the City of Oakland and the Regional Parks personnel has made it all possible. Many different projects have been accomplished, much has been learned, and the evidence is now there for everyone to see and enjoy.

One of the more important accomplishments was the publication of an “Advocate Plan” for Claremont Canyon. The Plan was written by two board members (Joe Engbeck and Jerry Kent) who conferred at length with many others both inside and outside the Conservancy. The 42-page plan lays out the Conservancy’s vegetation management goals, proposed fire hazard reduction measures, and landscape preservation goals, and describes a carefully limited system of trails for use by hikers, walkers, trail runners, etc.

The trail system is also intended to facilitate educational programs in a range of subjects from geology, to botany, to bird and wildlife observation. Next month, for example, Jerry Kent will conduct a windshield tour of the canyon with a focus on fire hazard reduction planning. Tom Klatt of U.C. will lead a walking tour of the newly constructed trails in the upper Claremont Canyon.

In early September, the Conservancy hired a brilliant young San Francisco-based environmental law specialist, Jonathan Ball, to advise the Conservancy about whether to intervene in a lawsuit between HCN and the Park District.

Although the Conservancy ultimately decided not to intervene, several members of the Conservancy’s board of directors testified against the terms of a settlement agreement that had been reached by the District and HCN, arguing that the proposed agreement violated the Park District’s own 2010 Wildfire Hazard Reduction plan and might result in excessive and unnecessary environmental damage. We also argued that the agreement incorporated misleading factual analysis from HCN, and could result in expensive ongoing maintenance costs. Meanwhile, the Park District has promised to invite the Conservancy and other environmental groups to attend informational meetings about issues that directly affect the canyon.

The Conservancy supports the removal of all eucalyptus trees in Claremont Canyon, especially those on ridgelines where they are exposed to the full force of the hot, dry, northeasterly winds that occur during fire season. This and other Conservancy policies are described in a nicely illustrated story in the fall 2011 issue of Bay Nature magazine.

Meanwhile, we are still waiting for FEMA grant monies to be released so that fire hazard reduction work can be completed in the upper canyon. After years of delay caused by the actions of HCN, we hope that there will be progress on those projects in the next few months.