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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chino Hills Defenders File Suit Over Road Through Park


Hills For Everyone partnered last week with Defenders of Wildlife, the Planning and Conservation League, and Friends of Harbors, Beaches, and Parks to challenge approval of a secondary access road to the Robert Diemer Water Filtration Plant (operated by MWD) that will cut through Chino Hills State Park in north Orange County. The organizations joined together in a suit that was filed in Orange County Superior Court on Thursday, March 13th.

The proposed road will climb a 45-degree slope through oak and walnut woodlands that are protected by a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) signed in 1994. These woodlands lie within the viewshed of Chino Hills State Park. Given the steep topography in the area, the road will require extensive engineering, including cut and fill slopes of up to 30 feet that are secured with a mechanically stabilized earth retaining wall system. Since the road is to be built over a mile into the mouth of Telegraph Canyon, the formal Orange County entrance to the State Park, the ambiance of the Park will be permanently damaged there. Park users will have to share this quiet canyon with truck traffic traversing a steep hill.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation is also named a party to the lawsuit because it will receive more than $1.7 million in compensation for its support of this Project. The Department has stated that it plans to use the money to finish, furnish and permanently endow a staff position for an Interpretive Center to be built nearby.

Many State Parks face threats to their integrity because agencies look at parks as placeholders for urban infrastructure. In our Park alone we have fought off eight roads over three decades. At this point we are extremely disheartened that in supporting MWD's massive road, State Parks has decided that interpreting the Park is more important than protecting it. As park rangers try to teach visitors about nature, how can they explain that their agency supported the destruction of oak and walnut woodlands and important wildlife habitat-all for a single staff person and some furniture?"

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