By Susan Motander
On Tuesday, the Monrovia City Council approved an official trail from the access point at Ridgeside Drive to the one at Cloverleaf.
They also approved the funds to have this trail repaired and put in good working order. The trail is located within the Hillside Wilderness Preserve (HWP) in Monrovia.
Prior to the discussion of the two issues, City Manager Oliver Chi briefly outlined the background on the Wilderness Preserve that was created through the passages of two measures on the ballot in 2000.
One created the preserve and the other authorized the issuance of the bonds to fund the purchase of the land necessary to create it.
Ultimately, the city was able to use the $10 million in bond funds approved to leverage additional funds through direct and matching grants, in order to obtain the $24 million necessary to purchase the 11 properties that, combined with land the city already owned, now make up the HWP.
Since acquiring the land, the city has worked to develop a Resource Management Plan (RMP) regarding the property, to outline how the city would use and maintain the HWP. In early 2012, the council approved the Environmental Impact Report for that RMP. In the plan, four access points were designated for the Preserve. These included those at Ridgeside and Cloverleaf Drives, as well as points at Sleepy Hollow and at the top of Highland Place.
It should be noted that while the city owns the majority of the property within the boundaries of the HWP, there are some older, privately-owned residences on private property within those boundaries. City vehicles, including maintenance and fire vehicles, are the only vehicles allowed within the HWP, with the exception of the residents of those private residences. Residents have been assigned specific routes over which they have an easement to reach their homes.
Part of the reason the city has established an official route from one access point to another, is to prevent visitors to the preserve from trespassing onto the private property of these residents, as Chi explained on Tuesday. Another reason is to avoid using their access routes as trails, as this could be dangerous for hikers.
The residents within the boundaries of the HWP have been maintaining the access routes to their homes at their own expense. The city manager has explained that while these are privately maintained, the city’s park rangers do patrol them and verify that they are being kept in proper order.
While various city staff members and many community volunteers have been working on preparing the newly-approved trail, grading work is required to complete the work necessary. This requires use of an outside company, hence the approval of Pokrajak Corporation to complete the necessary work (their bid was the lowest).
When the council was discussing the approval of the contract with Pokrajak, Council Member Gloria Crudgington questioned the safety of the work to be done in terms of fire safety.
Mayor Tom Adams noted that Steve Pokrajak, the principal of the company, lived in the high-fire-hazard area of the city and was well aware of the potential dangers.
After the awarding of the contract, Adams noted that Pokrajak had performed a great deal of community service in assisting after high winds downed trees throughout the city a few years ago. At that time, city resources were stretched thin and Pokrajak brought in crews at his own expense to help with the clean-up efforts.