Canyon Beat:

Backyard Bombardment

July 2016

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).

Holey moley!

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.

Backyard heroes

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.

Upcoming events

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

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.