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Council heads down same path addressing park traffic issues

Despite an unexpected setback with construction at the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, the city moves forward in addressing the park’s increased traffic and safety issues.

The Claremont City Council Tuesday unanimously approved the construction of an 8-foot pathway on the west side of Mills Avenue, to run from where the Thompson Creek trail meets Mt. Baldy Road to the entrance of the park. The pathway will replace the existing easement on the east side of the street.  The $79,000 plan includes adding a crosswalk at Mt. Baldy Road.

The move was suggested last June in an attempt to give neighboring communities additional peace and quiet while also managing the increasing pedestrian traffic. At the recommendation of neighbors, the council directed staff to explore moving the pathway to just inside the existing row of oleanders on the west.

With the addition of this portion of the project, expenses relating to changes at the Wilderness Park are now close to $354,400. Staff expects that sum, which will be borrowed from the city’s general fund, to be reimbursed within 2 years through paid parking.

While again recognizing that the new traffic and safety measures might not solve the overarching problems with the popular park, councilmembers agreed it was a step in the right direction.

“This is not going to be an easy thing,” said Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali of solving the situation at the Wilderness Park. “What we are trying to do here is find a solution so that people can still use the park, and keep some sense of safety and peace of mind for the people who live near the park.”

The unanimous vote nearly went afoul when councilmembers were told that the row of oleanders blocking the pathway from the street would need to be removed, primarily due to disease. The oleanders’ removal had not been a part of the agenda as originally proposed. In addition to frustrations with the unexpected twist, part of the reason the new pathway was so desirable in the first place was because the oleanders would block noise from the nearby residential areas, said Mr. Nasiali, with agreement from others. Staff noted later that research showed the shrub would not actually significantly block noise.

At the suggestion of neighbors, the city will look to add new shrubbery to replace the oleanders. A survey conducted by the city 2 years ago indicated that the oleanders’ removal was inevitable anyway, pointed out resident Marilee Scaff during the meeting’s public comment period. Overall, the plan was met with approval by the residents of the Wilderness Park area, which was the goal of the council all along.

While construction of the pathway is not expected until later this year, the city plans to add striping to Mills Avenue in the meantime. Enforcement will be key to ensuring the success of these changes, according to City Manager Tony Ramos.

“Trying to satisfy all concerns—safety, security, moving pedestrian traffic, satisfying the residents and making sure for the money that we are spending that this works—is a tough task,” Mr. Ramos said. “It’s going to take some time. It’s going to take strong presence by our park rangers and by the police department.”

Water stays on agenda

The first meeting back from the city’s August recess, the council wasted no time in returning to discussions of the water acquisition. In fact, summer recess or not, the city didn’t take a break when it came to the acquisition, one of the most talked-about city issues. Research into the possible acquisition of the water system remains a key element in the city’s 3-pronged process of handling the increasing water rates by Golden State Water Company, according to City Manager Tony Ramos, who briefed the public on the acquisition’s current status.  

Within the past week, Claremont’s hired consulting team conducted a physical inspection of the water system. A full report will be brought before the council at its meeting on Tuesday, October 23.

Long wait for work to begin

Renovation of the city’s Peppertree Square, yet another eagerly-anticipated city project, was also part of the discussion at the meeting. Fencing went up around a portion of the shopping center—located on the southeast corner of Arrow and Indian Hill—early this week as crews anticipate demolition of the corner building, once home to Wherehouse Music and Green Burrito. Final plans for the center’s renovation have been submitted. After nearly half a decade working toward the troubled center’s revitalization, the city merely awaits final inspection, according to Mr. Ramos.

 “With the new facades and renovation, you will see the long-awaited rebirth of that center,” Mr. Ramos assured.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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