By Andrew Tonkovich
It’s perhaps too easy or available, but that otherwise compelling El Toro Road sign’s confused demarcation of distance from Cook’s Corner provides this month’s ironic metaphor for canyon life. The sign and the two industrial-sized (thankfully, empty) barrels abandoned near Irvine Lake on Santiago Canyon Road suggest further unfamiliarity or easy disregard (and discard!), or both. Drivers traveling the six miles to Orange, 12 to Silverado --- or, yes, the other way around --- might be distracted from the mis-informational mileage miscount by abandoned couches or, just up the road, bulldozers and graders turning a once-gorgeous crest of oaks, sycamores and scrub defining our hills into Rutter Santiago LP’s Crest of Saddle. Grading seems a truer if tragic sign of the diminishment of wilderness, from where it begins to where it seems to be ending, and never-ending.
Still, modest resistance efforts and community eco-spiritedness result in recent good news. At press time, the Inter-Canyon League, Rural Canyons Conservation Fund, and Saddleback Canyons Conservancy await a response to their well-argued appeals to the Planning Commission’s approval of commercial use of a Santiago Canyon residence --- Red Rock --- to the Board of Supervisors. The supes’ response is expected within 60 days. Residents wrote letters and met with the board, including Todd Spitzer, arguing the danger, negative environmental impact and project’s obvious conflict with local restrictions.
ICL Director-at-Large Dion Sorrell announces plans for a six- to-12-week Shakespeare theater program for children, culminating in a performance at the Modjeska House to occur in late spring.
The History Committee began cataloging the local archives formerly kept at the old library. And the ICL invites residents to a Fire Safe Council (Fire Safe Council East OC Canyons) community meeting scheduled for March 15, reviewing threats to local trees, including the goldspotted oak borer and shot hole borer. No need to remind canyon-lovers not to bring firewood from other regions into our vulnerable eco-system.
Sure, Saddle Crest bums you out on your drive home. Yes, it’s been cold. In fact, rats nested in your car’s engine compartment. But, friends, there’s now line dancing at the Silverado Community Center (Wednesday nights) in addition to Pilates and Zumba, a semi-regular flea market and, yes, a newly refurbished and handsome Modjeska Community Center. Supervised by SMRPD Secretary Phil McWilliams, final touches are done, with help from staff, local craftspeople, conscientious contractors and, says Phil, plenty of input from community members. Phil smiles when he says that, justifiably proud of his generous and patient effort at incorporating un-shy suggestions and advice into this local government-run (!) remodeling project. Now everyone agrees that the newly painted center looks great, reports Phil, with only some fencing to complete.
Meanwhile, SMRPD confirms this year’s Chili Cook-off on May 12, renamed the “13th Annual Silverado Chili Cook-off and Hoedown,” and hosted by the Circle S Ranch, with proceeds going to the Children’s Center, itself in need of improvements, including fixing a leaking roof, replacing and upgrading doors and locks, and repairing floor damage. Cost estimate is about $13,000 --- a lot of chili-slingin’.
More good news
The biggest news from SMRPD is the purchase of a large portion of the mesa by TipToe Ranch, currently building stables on the old Collar property. The new owners introduced themselves and shared plans for the area, pledging to leave the property essentially untouched with continued access by the community --- vehicles and weapons prohibited, of course.
Matinee in the mountains
The Library of the Canyons screens free movies at 1 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month, the first Saturday geared toward adult audiences with recent favorites “Dunkirk” and “Victoria & Abdul.” Family flicks are third Saturdays, also at 1 p.m. Upcoming are “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”
With somebody at the county confused about where the canyons even are, and local activists registering voters and hosting candidate fundraisers, let’s review local electoral basics. Modjeska, Harding and most of Silverado are represented in the state’s 73rd Assembly District by William Brough, with former Supe Pat Bates representing the 36th Senate District. For a small portion of Silverado, it’s Assemblyman Stephen Choi (District 68) and John Moorlach in the Senate 37th. Assembly terms are two years; state Senate, four. Choi is running for reelection; Brough’s term ends this year. It takes longer to travel to Orange than it does to Silverado, unless you drive to the end of the canyon, wherever that is.
You might have heard that Rep. Mimi Walters represents the 45th CD. She’ll be challenged by a slew of Democrats including Brian Forde, Katie Porter and David Min. Walters’ regional office is 20 miles away, her D.C. office 2,500, but either way, she’s seldom seen or heard from out here.