April 2020

Canyon Beat:

Planning ahead

By Andrew Tonkovich

The regular March Silverado Modjeska Recreation and Parks District (SMRPD) meeting was decidedly irregular, with one director self-quarantining. The board made a quorum via online platform participation by other officers, and even attracted one audience member, intrepid Foothills Sentry reporter Scott Breedon, who watched and listened to debate over the district’s response to likely closure of the Silverado Children’s Center: “Salaries are about $15,000 a month. After discussion, the board voted, 3-0, to cover the center’s expenses for two months, and an optional third month, with funds to be reimbursed over two years, or three years if the third month was covered.” This plan would avoid using reserves. Vice President Isabell Kerins posted minutes to the SMRPD website, which also included vigorous expressions of gratitude to staff. She pledged to notify families --- and, presumably, all community supporters --- that monetary donations utilizing Zelle or PayPal will be accepted to help offset expenses. The next SMRPD meeting, real or virtual, is scheduled for April 21.  

Girls gone wild
Closure of state and county parks for three days after significant rains typically means a reliable bump in visits to the Cleveland National Forest. Marcella Gilchrist of the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, now officially closed (like nearly everything, including library, Modjeska House, Community Center), notes recently increased use of adjacent trails, especially on weekend afternoons. Locals have seen fewer large groups, including the regular Friday night wine and cheese OC Meet-Up pilgrimage, which takes in the golden hour from the vista offered at the Goat Shed picnic table, about two miles up Harding Truck Trail. Yet rain, COVID-19, economic collapse, and official advisories to stay at home seem not to have stopped destination photography, with the reliable appearance of young men posing with their high-performance automobiles parked against scenic canyon backdrops, or scantily-clad young women staging frisky tableaus (trail, mountains, sexy underwear, come-hither looks), neither of which scenarios President Teddy Roosevelt likely imagined when establishing the park named after Grover Cleveland.  

Silverado Fire Station #16 and Modjeska #14 are closed to the public but, of course, their volunteer crews continue to respond to calls, lately going out in protective gear (goggles, masks, gowns) and anticipate arriving at homes, accident sites or other emergency locales with at least basic information on the status of those requesting services. This means those using 911 need to report flu status of accident victims or those requiring medical care. Add to our brave new lexicon the acronym for “shortness of breath,” and expect that first responders will put a face mask on you or your loved one.   

Making sense 
The Census Bureau is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Its local field work was also suspended, in mid-March, no surprise, but not before a handful of workers did their best to find canyon residents, deliver materials, and confirm participation by households in this federal government project upon which so much county, state and federal decision-making relies. Workers carrying laptops may not be getting consistent GPS or online or telephone reception, and often lack the maps, moxie or fearlessness required to navigate our narrow canyon roads, negotiate gates and dogs, or find the entrance or entrances to a domicile, as my own, whose floor plan recalls that of the Winchester Mansion. Happily, Edison-contracted tree-trimming crews have cut limbs and cleared brush in past weeks, reducing risk of downed lines, and perhaps making it easier for census workers, emergency service providers, delivery drivers to actually find your place, especially as many residents rely on neighbors and professionals to provide groceries, prescriptions or other essentials. 

“Notice to Destroy Weeds on Reverse Side”
OC Public Works wins this month’s Top Award for Pleasing Syntax. The agency’s annual weed and vegetation abatement letter, delivered by mail to homeowners, makes for a fun read beyond its delightful header (weeds okay in front?), with otherwise useful and urgent removal guidelines, offered --- no, insisted upon --- toward preventing conditions that encourage, even invite, wildfires. The hit parade of the intrusive, noxious and hazardous includes dead palm fronds, Eucalyptus trees and branches, artichoke thistle and castor bean plants.  Aguinaga Green in Baker Canyon will accept your truckload of plant debris.  

Cold comfort 
With recent rain and cold temps, our favorite, and much-welcome sign of the times outside the U.S. Forest Service (Department of Agriculture) station on Silverado Canyon Road: “Today’s Fire Danger:  Low.”

Life force
The life of canyon friend, activist, advocate and role model of civic virtue Connie Nelson was celebrated at a standing-room-only potluck at the Silverado Community Center. She was LART (Large Animal Rescue Team) certified, but extended her expertise, example and generosity to rescuing small animals, needy human animals, and making everyday struggles and joys seem equally urgent.