Friday, February 21, 2014

habitat ~ 02/21/14 ~ Hatton Canyon State Property

Hatton Canyon State Park Property
February 21, 2014

Heavy sigh... patience is a virtue I am frequently short on.  Whatever happened to the plans to pave a bike trail here?  Does anything ever get done anymore?  Seriously, I look around at every level of government and wonder how do we actually make progress?  How did they do it during so much turmoil in the 30's and 40's?  My uncle, the archetypal retired history teacher, talks all the time about how our current situation parallels that era.  I don't have an answer, mainly because there's so much I simply don't understand.  I'm putting all my faith in the people who claim they want to figure it out and get it done, i.e, elected officials.  Groan.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah... the best accounting of the bike path drama I could find is this July 23, 2008 Herald article hosted by the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC).  Erg.  I'm totally guessing a handful of homeowners may be threatening a lawsuit that CA State Parks can ill afford, if it's not currently being battled out.  I'm not sure why I hold such a bad opinion of some local homeowners, but, in their defense, they're often unduly cowed by the cities they live in.  However, they already won in court while rejecting a Hwy 1 reroute through Hatton Canyon back in 1997.  I'm glad they saved the canyon, but the predicted result has been horrific highway gridlock, especially around the high school and during regular commuter hours.  My understanding is that as part of the agreement of land transfer from Caltrans to State Parks in 2001 (scroll halfway down page), the bike path legally has to be put in as a condition of not building the Hwy there.  Poor State Parks can't even provide an online description of Hatton Canyon after 13 years.  So, who has more rights, the homeowners with all their negativity towards change, who I might point out technically do not own Hatton Canyon, or the people of California?  Who has more money?

As a daily user of the extremely successful Rec Trail, I am totally for this new bike path.  Currently, there is no easy way to get from Monterey/PG to the Mouth of the Valley by bike or on foot without having to traverse busy sections of Hwy 1.  Andy and his Saturday morning, trail-running cohorts have tried several times to find a better route, with no success.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who would prefer biking to work or school through a beautiful wooded area, rather than sitting in stinky exhaust, standstill traffic.  Isn't that a good thing?  For every commuter bicyclist, there's gotta be one less car on the road.  I would think the surrounding homeowners would find they prefer reduced traffic congestion and a way to get from place to place without getting in the car themselves.  Maybe the problem lies in connecting the trail safely on the north end, closer to Hwy 68?

As it is, Hatton Canyon is being used as a personal dog pooping park with private trails to many backyards.  I'm wondering if someone with enough money wants to keep it that way, despite the total neglect otherwise.  Fortunately, I saw very little dog poop this time compared to the first time I visited Hatton Canyon.  I don't know if the new dog poop bag dispensers have anything to do with the improvement.  Who pays and supplies the bags?  The whole thing is ironic, because there's been so much vocal opposition to putting in a dog park in Carmel Valley.  Obviously, our area needs one.

I'd love to see some attention and management paid to this lovely spot.  There is so much potential!  Here's the Carmel Area State Parks General Plan from 2012 that looks interesting. As I was searching for information, I noticed the Big Sur Land Trust has quietly removed themselves since the last time I wrote about thisRana Creek has been involved, too.  Their work is distinctive, and I've seen them really grow as a company in the 11 years I've been in the area.  I personally think the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (MPRPD) would do an excellent job at balancing nature, access, and the neighbors at Hatton Canyon, but it's not their property to manage.  However, this kind of arrangement is not without precedent - the Morro Bay Golf Course is run by the San Luis Obispo County Parks on CA State Parks property.  If given my druthers, an agreement between MPRPD and CA State Parks could be a great solution.

Sigh... it's been difficult to find any information, so I honestly don't know what the current situation is.  I'm writing someone, TAMC or the District 5 County Supervisor Potter, to find out.  It's such a shame this lovely public land isn't being better utilized.

Some things to note on my pictures above...  It just occurred to me that the year-round crick of water is Hatton Creek, which provides a lush green that is hard to find right now during our severe drought.  Someone must be using this water, because there are pipes and manholes scattered throughout the property. Are the Hatton Canyon environmental lawsuits a facade for water rights?  I'm not serious, but nothing would surprise me anymore.  I'm including the oaks above, because I've neglected them in previous habitat posts.  And, the Monterey pines are looking sorry indeed with lots of dried up parts.  I'm looking forward to more rain.

ps 02/27/14 - I apologize if anyone's blog feed got messed up.  I edited this a gazillion times, because I kept finding biased errors in my assumptions.  I feel a sense of responsibility in getting my facts straight when expressing my opinions.  I'm sure there's a lot I don't understand.

Todd Muck, Deputy Executive Director of TAMC, kindly replied to my query and gave me permission to quote him on my blog.  He said, "Due to the opposition to converting the dirt service road into a paved bike path, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County's Board of Directors elected to not construct that portion of the project when we constructed the tunnel under Carmel Valley Road and the paved path to Rio Road.  The unpaved portion remains in TAMC's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan as a potential future project, but there is no longer any funding dedicated to pursing the project."  He also pointed me in the direction of Victoria Beach, a Carmel City Council Member, who's organizing a citizens trails group.  Interesting.  I'll check it out.

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