OWN VOICE. ~ InPerspective by the Chaparral Restoration League and Gregg Dieguez —
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Residents Voice Concerns:
The County’s Quarry Park Master Plan (the Plan) should not be passed as it now stands. The Fire Risk Management portion of this Quarry Park Master Plan is inadequate for the next four years, let alone for the next 20 years which this plan is supposed to cover. There is insufficient acknowledgement of the immense challenges that exist with Fire Risk Management for Quarry Park, nor any mention for a long term transition plan to native habitat. [Those extreme wildfire challenges are covered in The (Wild) Fire Next Time… and other articles in the Buzz.] A 20 year Master Plan calls for long-term considerations. It is extremely concerning to El Granada residents living directly adjacent to Quarry Park in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone that San Mateo County Government is not looking at long-term considerations and would provide such an inadequate Plan.
The publication of this Quarry Park Master Plan should be delayed in order for the findings of the RCD El Granada Wildfire Resiliency Scoping Project to be presented, published and then to allow for public comment and final revisions to that assessment. There may also be need to undertake a derivative “solutions plan” based on the Scoping Project. It makes no sense for San Mateo County to spend $75,000 for a Consultant to model and study Quarry Park and then not wait to see how it may affect the Quarry Park Master Plan. It also opens to question spending significant Parks’ funds before decisions on the hazards are made.
In 2002 Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) acquired most of the old Wicklow property and cut true fuel breaks into the area below El Granada Blvd. When Quarry Park was acquired by the County in 2014, efforts to remove fuel by cutting mature eucalyptus stopped. Then in 2019 the “Governor’s” fuel reduction program was funded. Inexplicably, in Quarry Park, most of the funds were used for “shaded fuels breaks”, some of which are only 13 feet wide with eucalyptus canopy touching overhead. Calfire specifications for shaded fuel breaks state: “In a shaded fuel break, trees are typically spaced so their crowns no longer touch, lower branches are pruned, and brush and dead and down material are removed or replaced with masticated material. Shaded fuel breaks are most often placed strategically on ridgetops, roads, and around structures.” Calfire literature also states that shaded fuel breaks are ineffective in high winds such as the Diablo Wind events of concern in El Granada. The “shaded fuel breaks” in Quarry Park, initiated during “The Governors Fuel Reduction Program”, do little or nothing to alleviate the danger posed by a eucalyptus fueled, Diablo Wind-driven firestorm that could destroy most of El Granada.
Much in the Fire Risk Management section beginning on page 99 is incorrect or misleading. The residents’ critique below is for the Quarry Park Master Plan Draft – Chapter 5, Fire Risk Management.
1 – Page 99-100 – The Governor’s Quarry Park 2019 Fuel Reduction Project was in fact not completed, however the Quarry Park Master Plan states it was completed. Figure 5-3 is a map that shows only that which was completed. The legend of Figure 5-3 shows light orange identified as “Project Boundary” however the light orange project boundary was not included on the Figure 5-3 Cal Fire map. If it had been, it would show all that was intended for this Quarry Park Project but not completed. See << Attachment 1 at left for the correct Cal Fire map of all that was intended for the 2019 Quarry Park Governor’s Project. The vast majority of the entire Quarry Park western perimeter of this project shown in light orange was not completed.
2 – Page 99 – Project #8, Create and Maintain a Shaded Fuel Break Along Western Park Boundary, is a Quarry Park project near the park entrance. Project #8 was improperly named. This boundary is not the Western, but is actually the Southern Boundary and includes Columbus, Moro, Santiago, etc. This is confusing since the true Western Boundary of Quarry Park is along El Granada Blvd. Recommend Project #8 is renamed to reduce confusion.
3 – Page 99 refers to Figure 5-77. Page 104 shows it as Figure 5-7. Figure 5-55 but it is Figure 5-5. Figure 5-66 is Figure 5-6.
4 – Page 103, Figure 5-6 states “Grant-funded Fuel Break Project (Ranked #16).” This is incorrect. This is not the map that represents the RCD Coastal Conservancy Grant. The yellow highlighted section on the western boundary is not included in that grant. See Attachment 2 >> for the correct map.
5 – Page 99 states Rank #16 includes 97 acres. This does not include the acres for the rust highlighted area in Figure 5-4 (page 101) which represents the western perimeter of Quarry Park. This rust highlighted western perimeter project should be included in the total acre count for Project #16. Or, it should be given it’s own discrete project Rank ID so it stops being ignored and disregarded.
6 – The QP Master Plan refers to the County Park’s Fuel Management Plan that includes 32 fuel management projects. However upon closer inspection, only two of the three Quarry Park Projects are defined, while one of the projects, ID Ranking #16 is only partially defined. The portion that continues to be undefined, well after a year since the release of the San Mateo County Parks 5-Year Fuel Management Plan, is the western perimeter (along El Granada Blvd). It does not instill confidence that this Quarry Park Master Plan really intends to provide any fuel reduction along the western boundary, which is essential to protect El Granada from wildfire, without the acres known and that project defined.
7 – This Quarry Park Master Plan should acknowledge the immense challenges of protecting the El Granada community from wildfire. Quarry Park is estimated to have 20,000 stems per acre as stated in both the Governor’s 2019 Fuel Reduction Project and the RCD Coastal Conservancy Grant. Acres and aces of 20,000 stems per acre will not be touched with the current plans as outlined in the San Mateo County Parks 5-Year Wildfire Management Plan.
8 – San Mateo County Parks has continued to disregard and ignore many residents living on a Quarry Park boundary in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone who overlook these acres and acres of extremely flammable eucalyptus. Ignoring this western perimeter endangers the entire town of El Granada. This Quarry Park Master Plan does not address the overwhelming concern expressed by ~600 El Granada residents in a signed petition. El Granada residents are concerned with the huge number of flammable trees in Quarry Park. Residents are very concerned that a few shaded fuel breaks as outlined in this Quarry Park Master Plan are not sufficient to reduce the wildfire risk.
9 – The residents lives are not being valued nor accounted for in Project #16 by the SMC Parks Department. When getting into the details of the Parks Fuel Management Plan, this rust highlighted area (Figure 5-4) is directly adjacent to over 140 homes and is incorrectly rated in the “Presence of Private Residences” risk criterion by the Parks Department as 0/10 (zero of ten). This should have a rating of 10/10. By correcting the Presence of Private Residences rating of 10/10 in the 14-Point Criteria Prioritization for Project #16, the priority rank for the Quarry Park western perimeter will tie for first place with the highest priority County project (Rank ID #1). The Quarry Park western perimeter is clearly a high priority project that is being ignored and disregarded. The Quarry Park western perimeter should have its own discrete project as do the other 32 projects in the Fuel Management Plan, rather than being lumped into Project #16 which does not represent the correct Rank ID nor definition (since there is no fire road). The Parks Department has refused to make these repeatedly requested changes. This 20 year Quarry Park Master Plan should not continue to perpetuate these mistakes.
10 – Currently, Quarry Park eucalyptus trees abut the back yards of homes on the Quarry Park western perimeter in the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. This has been allowed to continue for far too long. This must be addressed in this Quarry Park Master Plan. In order to meet the stated fire safety goals, the Quarry Park Master Plan needs to include a commitment to complete in the near term a fuel break of a minimum 300 feet between the western boundary of Quarry Park and the residences of El Granada with a stated intent to widen the break as added funds are made available. Ideally, the western perimeter fuel break would include a fire access road, as well.
We have seen an increase in strong northeast Diablo winds in the increasingly dry wildfire seasons. A Quarry Park crown fire driven by Diablo winds has the potential to completely destroy El Granada. Canyon fires can move incredibly fast, and the evacuation of El Granada cannot happen fast enough given the available routes. Please include a complete contiguous fuel break in the Quarry Park Master Plan. The Master Plan draft has no firm commitment to any comparable actions, and failing to complete a fuel break leaves the people and town of El Granada extremely vulnerable to wildfire coming from San Mateo County property.
The County is in a difficult spot here. They have now realized the liability they inherited when they accepted the donation of the park property. The wildfire risk is substantial, and while the master plan will “mitigate fire risk” the key question is: “Will it be enough?”. And the risk is NOT just to El Granada, because embers can fly miles, as mentioned by CalFire’s Rich Sampson in an MCC meeting a year or so ago, and as seen in recent Calif. fires. There are eucalyptus throughout the County, and especially in our area – including the MWSD watershed. I have two major questions: 1) How can this Master Plan be developed and approved before the EG Wildfire Scoping Study is complete? It would seem appropriate to first address the natural disasters, and THEN plan for recreational activities; 2) If San Diego saw fit to take a decade and remove large eucalyptus groves, starting over 20 years ago, how can our County not be preparing to do the same, now? There are important derivative issues as well, including a plan for revegetation of the affected areas, and the source(s) of funding, which could include special assessments. One estimate to clear and re-vegetate eucalyptus around QP was $150 million. That’s a lot of money (and I hope exaggerated), but if a wildfire wipes out homes and kills people, the price tag could be a lot higher, and I can imagine the County being liable for failures to properly address the risk, for continually allowing dense WUI development, and for not providing sufficient evacuation (while at the same time allowing population increases). Quarry Park is truly an issue “hanging fire”.
What You Can Do:
- Read the Quarry Park Master Plan and the critique above…
- Read the purpose of the El Granada Wildfire Resiliency Scoping Project
- Read some of the other articles bearing on this topic: e.g. Fighting The Wrong Fire?
- Attend the May 25th 7pm MCC meeting and speak your mind…
- and/or write the MCC with your thoughts before that meeting
- Write to County Parks BEFORE May 30th: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org, ParksandRecreation@smcgov.org, cc: Don Horsley
- Follow the process and speak (or write) as required at Planning Commission, Coastal Commission, etc.
Mr. Dieguez is a native San Franciscan, longtime San Mateo County resident, and semi-retired entrepreneur who causes occasional controversy on the Coastside. He is a member of the MCC, but his opinions here are his own, and not those of the Council. In 2003 he co-founded MIT’s Clean Tech Program here in NorCal, which became MIT’s largest alumni speaker program. He lives in Montara. He loves a productive dialog in search of shared understanding.