By Michelle Mainville
Volunteer firefighters have been saturated with calls this month, as novice hikers, bikers and drivers experience canyon catastrophes firsthand. The popularity of Black Star Canyon has exploded in the past year (much to the dismay of some, including one resident who is rumored to be digging booby trap trenches for cyclists). To add to the dangers of rough terrain, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions, many hikers and revelers set out unprepared for actual wilderness experiences. Last week, I informed some visitors about the poison oak they were leaning against, and noticed several groups of young people along the trail, ill-dressed for hiking, carrying little or no water, even as temperatures entered the 90s. Over 25 incidences were logged on the sheriff’s blotter in the past 30 days for the Black Star area, consisting mostly of parking and marijuana violations, but also including car burglaries, lost hikers and fires. Incidences of ignorance
On June 4, a group of “kids partying” in Black Star shot off fireworks, igniting surrounding brush. Daniel Marquez, 23, was arrested in connection with the half-acre fire that was quickly extinguished, thanks to local firefighters. On June 22, a 19-year-old “hiker,” was separated from her group (on a fire road). About two dozen rescue workers searched for her. A helicopter finally spotted her at 2:15 a.m., near a cliff’s edge with no provisions or shoes. She was treated for minor cuts and bruises.
Yea or neigh
Our backyard might be shrinking. Trail access by hikers, bikers and equestrians to the 660-acre Irvine Mesa is in question, following the posting of a “Public Access by Reservation Only” sign by the Wildlands Conservancy. This land has been for sale for over a year. County Supervisor Todd Spitzer sits on the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) board and strongly supported the acquisition of the land for $2 million. It voted “yes” in May. Additionally, the Inter-Canyon League is communicating with Conservancy Director David Myers, who said, last year, that the nonprofit needed the money, but wanted all of the land preserved. If the Wildlands Conservancy accepts the offer the land will be permanently preserved as mitigation for natural lands damaged by TCA road construction).
It seems that underground mammals have taken over the canyons this month. The winter rains have helped loosen the usually-packed soil, making it more critter friendly. Their tunnels and holes create eyesores and hazards. We have three main types of burrowers in the canyons: pocket gophers, moles and voles. Each can be identified by evidence of its activity.
Gophers create crescent-shaped mounds, and eat earthworms, grubs, plant roots, shrubs and juicy vegetables. Moles produce volcano-shaped symmetrical mounds, connected by tunnels. Before you consider a mole a pest, consider the benefits of these subterranean mammals. Moles’ tunneling activities aerate the soil, and they eat their body weight in insects each day. If you can’t win the war on moles, perhaps you can reach a truce.
Voles are “glorified field mice.” They make ping-pong ball-sized holes, with no dirt around it. They chew roots and make tunnels. Look for trails of dead grass to identify them. To keep these “pests” at bay, consider companion planting of such repellents as Mexican marigolds. Other ways of ridding your yard of these pests are to install underground wire barriers or use pest-specific traps. NEVER use rodenticides, gases or baits on them, as these enter the food chain and poison their main predators: bobcats, hawks, owls and snakes.
Local Tim Adams assisted a young man whose car ignited, possibly from a propane tank. Tim got him out of the vehicle and poured water on him, helping him until rescue workers arrived. Just a few days earlier, Tim had assisted a local cyclist who crashed and received a concussion.
Silverado resident Larissa Connors has taken a break from her high school math-teaching career to train and participate in professional mountain biking. She is being considered for the 2016 Olympics team, and has made the USA cycling team for the World Championships in the Czech Republic this month.
SMRPD is hosting a Kids’ Club Summer Day Camp for kids ages 5-12, July 11- Aug. 19. If your child is interested in this “unique and adventurous” program, check out rates and info on smrpd.org.
This month’s Summer Concert Series bands will include Brett Davis and Strawberry Moon. There will be free water, the awesome “dollar raffle,” and hopefully, the return of the volunteer-made burger plates following their absence last month, due to a not-so-community-minded individual who sent out the health department to shut it down. The proper permits have been secured, with SMRPD picking up the tab.