Paradise residents’ concerns shift in regard to Hooper project
The public still has issues with John Hooper’s Rock Creek Canyon Project located in the community of Paradise, and the Mono County Board of Supervisors will need more information before it can resolve everything.
At a special Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, April 17, the Board, minus Larry Johnston who had to recuse himself because he owns property close to the project, met at the Paradise Fire Station to review the project’s specific plan amendments and some issues the public had found within an encroachment permit the County had issued Hooper, as well as Hooper’s proposed trails plan.
Local resident Jeff Vaughn summed up the public’s concerns. “Anything iconic [in the project area] is gone. We’re concerned about public access and safety now.”
With the issuance of the encroachment permit, Hooper built some split rail fencing in front of his project, which lies at the on the hairpin turn where the Paradise Lodge once operated.
Described by the public as a “cattle shoot” and giving a “squeeze shoot” effect, the rails were touted as a public safety hazard, which pushes the public into a compromised position between the guardrail and the motoring public.
“The fence is fragile,” said Paradise resident Mike O’Sullivan. “It already impaired snow removal significantly during the one storm we had this year, and it was a very dry year.”
It was also pointed out that the fences remove the option to pull over and chain up in that segment.
“We need to put public safety and snow removal first,” added Liz O’Sullivan. “We don’t want to get sued. Let’s be proactive rather than reactive.”
Mono County Assistant Public Works Director Jeff Walters pointed out that the County had not approved the part of the fence closest to the building.
Hooper defended his split rail by explaining that he had good reason to put it there.
“It gives direction to the trailhead,” he explained. “I got the idea from national parks. Hearing that this is riskier is almost unbelievable. It’s a much safer situation.” Hooper cited the absence of cars backing out into traffic as one example.
Supervisor Hap Hazard felt that pedestrians should be kept off the road and some type of passage should be developed behind the guardrail.
“The split rail looks like channeling for rides at Disneyland, I want to see something different in the long run,” he added.
Supervisor Byng Hunt offered a different perspective when he explained that the split rail fence had actually come in quite handy when he and his wife had been biking in the area recently. He did agree, however, that the pedestrian walkway should be moved behind the guardrail.
“The split rail fence is kind of rinky dink,” voiced Supervisor Tim Hansen. “We can kid ourselves and talk about it, but it is what it is. The County should put in a bridge. It’s the safest option.”
Supervisor Vikki Bauer wasn’t ready to make a decision on the split rail fencing and ask that staff come back with more options. The supervisors agreed to leave the split rail where it is until they determine what will take its place.
Another big community concern was the alleged proposal to use Glen Court as a trail. This reference in Hooper’s Trail Plan alarmed residents who fear that eventually the homeowners of the Rock Creek Canyon project would seek to close off the Rock Creek trailhead from Lower Rock Creek Road and try to use Glen Court instead.
Mono County Principal Planner Gerry LeFrancois said that Glen Court was never meant to be a user trail.
Supervisor Hazard suggested that the road be designated as a utility easement in order to protect it from ever being called a trail. He explained that it would most likely need to be used to tie the area into Digital 395, anyway.
Also discussed Tuesday evening: removing excess signage in the area and the installation of a restroom rather than the re-installment of an old fishing cabin that had been removed from the property.
Supervisors, the public and even Hooper agreed that the amount of signage was overwhelming.
As one member of the audience shouted out, “it seems as though they’re breeding!”
As for the restroom, supervisors felt having it on the property was a good idea, but needed to further discuss if the County should be responsible for maintaining the facility.
So, the Board voted 4-0 to remove Glen Court from the Trails Plan, to remove unnecessary signage, and to adopt Option C, which includes having Hooper put in the restroom.
They asked staff to bring back more information on the split rails, a pedestrian bridge, parking, and maintenance of the restroom facility.