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City playing cat and mouse game with hikers on parking

Claremont council members and commissioners are keeping busy with the August break fast approaching. As park usage continues to peak, city officials are making plans to fix parking problems and overcrowding at the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park sooner rather than later.

At a special meeting of the Claremont Traffic and Transportation Commission Monday, commissioners recommended that the city add permit-only parking to several streets located next to the busy wilderness park.

If the council agrees with the recommendation, permit parking will be enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on Pomello Drive as well as Dillard Avenue, St. Gregory Street, Pennsylvania Place, Brigham Young Drive, Independence Drive and Mills Avenue, from Pomello to Alamosa. The Claremont City Council will give its final say on the parking permits at its Tuesday, July 23 meeting, according to Loretta Mustafa, acting city engineer.

Since the opening of the park’s expanded north parking lot, and enforcement of the lot’s now metered parking, many locals have vocalized concern that eager wilderness park hikers are finding loopholes to avoid paying. In recent months, several residents living near the park, particularly those on Pomello and Mills, have share with the Claremont City Council that Pomello Drive, just south of Mt. Baldy Road and the southernmost lot, have become alternative parking destinations.

Claremont administrators are not strangers to the redistribution of parking. According to a recently conducted city survey, even with the 174 parking spots available at the north and south lots, an estimated 100 cars will be found parked on adjacent streets during the park’s peak hours, which are typically on weekend mornings, according to the report. While commissioners could have chosen to recommend permit parking on the given streets from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m., it was decided that 24 hour enforcement would provide residents with the relief they desire.

Officials predict further parking restrictions will be needed as hikers continue to find loopholes in the wilderness park parking situation. The city continues to solicit feedback and monitor streets near the wilderness park until a long-term solution can be found, Ms. Mustafa acknowledged.

“This is the best option at this time,” Ms. Mustafa said. “The city will be moving forward with the wilderness park management plan and more long term solutions, but we feel this is the most appropriate solution for the issues residents are currently dealing with.”

Though the parking permits are a temporary fix, the Claremont City Council Tuesday unanimously approved a master plan to address overarching goals at the park, such as correcting parking problems. The scope of the proposed master plan would include a study of the park’s existing parking facilities as well as entertain the idea of adding additional designated parking areas.

The plan will not be limited to parking, however. City staff suggested the plan include a list of park inventory—restrooms, trash receptacles, etc.— as well as a list of park access points, such as the terminus on Pomello and Mountain Avenue.

The hired master plan consultant will be asked to look for possible expansions to the wilderness trails and determine what the different ways those trails are being used—for hiking, biking and so forth. The consultant will also be asked to analyze the wilderness park hours, another area of contention for wilderness park users, though Mayor Opanyi Nasiali was hesitant to include park hours in the master plan.

“We are repeating what we already finished,” said Mr. Nasiali, also skeptical of the idea of exploring full-moon hikes at the park, which would be in violation of the already agreed-upon park hours.

While overall pleased with the master plan’s scope of work, several residents offered further suggestions. Ludd Trozpek recommended the plan include analysis of the management and enforcement of the park, something he pointed out has been historically lacking at the park. Charlie Gail advocated that the city consult with a trained professional, like a biologist, to take a look at the way usage may be effecting the animals, soil and trail erosion. All agreed that a more comprehensive approach is needed.

“We need to approach this much in the same way we have approached our general plan,” said Councilmember Sam Pedroza. “With the full knowledge that we need as much participation as we can. It is a long haul proposal and discussion...but at the end we will have a document that looks at everything holistically in a way that helps us be better prepared for the long term.”

Kathleen Trepa, director of community and human services, expects to have the Request for Proposal released later this month with hopes of hiring a consultant by the fall, at which time the council will evaluate the potential costs of the master plan. It is unknown how much this endeavor will cost and a funding source has not been accounted for.

 

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In addition to approving the wilderness park master plan, the city council adopted the city’s latest sustainability report card.

The annual report was adopted 4 years ago as a means of noting progress in meeting the goals outlined in the Sustainable City Plan. Goals include reducing water and electricity consumption, promoting biking and other means of fossil fuel-reduced transportation, and educating the public on how to live in a more environmentally sound manner.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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