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City reaches out for feedback on Wilderness Park’s future

The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park (CHWP) is one step closer to a master plan, thanks to Claremont residents who dedicated their time and energy to administer surveys to park visitors on behalf of MIG Consultants.

As previously reported in the COURIER, MIG has been given the daunting task of completing a comprehensive master plan for the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. The goal is to develop a blueprint to manage the park that will balance environmental preservation, recreational needs, neighborhood impacts and funding considerations for years to come. 

The city-owned 2,023-acre preserve, with its 20 miles of fire roads and single-path trails extending deep into the San Gabriel foothills, continues to attract a mountain of visitors, creating the challenge of finding a balance between resource protection and park use.

In an effot coordinated by longtime Claremont resident Meg Mathies, MIG conducted 16 two-hour exit surveys at five CHWP access points, a process that began on May 5 and concluded on July 18. More than 75 volunteers participated in conducting these surveys, including members of the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy (CWC), Friends of the Hillsides, students from five of the Claremont Colleges, residents of Pilgrim Place, members of Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Senior Bike Group as well as a member of city staff and various friends and family members.

Two types of information was gathered by the Visitor Intercept Survey: 1) a count of visitors exiting the park with the two-hour period, and 2) a written questionnaire in which individuals reported on their experience in the park and made suggestions for improvements.

The answers to questions such as “Where did you park today?” and “Currently, what detracts from your experience while at the CHWP?” should assist MIG in developing a master plan addressing problem areas within the park.

Melissa Payne, a Rancho Cucamonga resident who recreates at the park three times a week, supports the city’s efforts for park improvements and offers up a suggestion of her own. “I think it would be nice if there were more parking. I buy the parking pass at the city every year so I don’t have to worry about parking permits, but on the weekends it’s so crowded. You have to circle and circle the lot looking for a spot or park all the way down the street so now I just come during the week after work. I’m glad that they’re doing these survey. It’s good that people care.”

Preliminary numbers pertaining to the exit survey reveal that a total of 2,160 people completed the survey and 3,799 people were counted as they exited the park during the survey periods. The final results will be released to the city in mid-August.

“The completion of the intercept surveys is a milestone for the Wilderness Master Plan,” says Claremont’s Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor. “From these surveys, the city will be able to see usage patterns based on visitor behavior. We will be sharing this information with the community at a community workshop on October 20 and encourage the community to participate.”

The recent Visitor Intercept Survey is just one of several methods that will be used by MIG to obtain information about park usage. Beginning in early August, an online survey will be posted on the city’s website to gather more information from park users and residents, and neighborhood surveys in impact zones have been proposed for the fall.

The city is expected to release its staff report to TAC in September, including potential master plan outcomes and staffing options for consideration as well as general cost estimates to access options.

A TAC workshop will be held on October 11 at the Hughes Center, where members will go over all the data and give potential outcome plans for consideration.  The city staff led meeting will include morning and afternoon sessions as well as presentations from MIG. The workshop is open to the public, however, comments will only be welcomed at the end of the sessions with imposed timed limits.

Residents will have an opportunity to offer their input at a community meeting to be held on Monday, October 20 at 6 p.m. at Taylor Hall. All are encouraged to attend.

If all goes as scheduled, a draft of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park Master Plan will be ready for city review by March 2015.

—Angela Bailey


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