The general plan for Topanga State Park dates back to 1977, so California State Parks has decided it’s time to devise a new one. ’What we are going to do is create a plan for the next 20 years,’ said Ron Schafer, superintendent of the State Parks’ Angeles District. ‘It’s not a small task that we’re taking on.’ State Parks hosted its first public meeting on September 29 at Stewart Hall in Temescal Gateway Park. About 60 Pacific Palisades and Topanga residents learned about the park’s many resources and had the opportunity to share their ideas on how to improve the park. ’We’re just getting started in this process,’ Schafer said, who brought along six specialists to speak about the park’s archeology, history, vegetation, recreational use and more. State Parks was allocated $360,000 from Proposition 84 to fund the planning process, which will include an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required by the California Environmental Quality Act. In December 2008, the Pooled Money Investment Board (PMIB) decided to freeze all disbursements authorizing any new grants or obligations for bond projects and to suspend all projects, including the general plan for Topanga. In a letter dated May 6, the California State Treasurer’s Office announced that ‘bond funded projects/grants that had been committed or awarded that were suspended ‘ may restart,’ according to Karen Adams, State Parks associate landscape architect. This has allowed State Parks to move forward with the plan for Topanga. There will be two more public meetings, then a preliminary general plan and an EIR will be drafted and released for public comment. At that point, State Parks will incorporate public comments, as appropriate, into the general plan and EIR. The plan and EIR will then be submitted to the State Park and Recreation Commission for approval, explained Tina Robinson, State Parks environmental coordinator. Robinson anticipates that the process will take one to two years, providing funding is not withheld. The plan doesn’t formally affect Temescal, which is managed by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and shares trails with Topanga, said the Conservancy’s Executive Director Joe Edmiston, who attended the kick-off meeting. However, ‘the two adjacent properties cannot be planned in a vacuum,’ Edmiston wrote to the Palisadian-Post. ‘We are coordinating closely with California State Parks to assure seamless planning between the two properties.’ The Conservancy hopes to launch its own long-range plan for Temescal once funding becomes available. Topanga State Park, which encompasses 11,525 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains and extends from Pacific Coast Highway to the hills above the San Fernando Valley, has more than 60 entrances and 50 miles of trails. The park is mainly used for hiking, horseback riding and bike riding. An average of 404,302 people visit the park annually, but only an average of 25,314 patrons pay the $4 day-use fee yearly, according to data collected from 1996 to 2008. Last year, more than 10,000 visitors participated in interpretive programs at the park provided by park staff as well as groups such as the Topanga Canyon Docents, Temescal Canyon Association, the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, L.A. Audubon Society, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, National Park Service and Resource Conservation District of Santa Monica Mountains. The majority of park users are ages 21 to 55, with 70 percent Caucasian, 15 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Middle Eastern, 5 percent Korean, 3 percent African American and 2 percent European, according to visitor surveys collected at the park between 1996 and 2000 and Topanga State Park staff estimates. The park’s vegetation is mostly chaparral, but there is also coastal sage scrub and grassland savannah as well as oak, walnut and bay laurel woodlands. More than 80 mammals, hundreds of bird species and more than 60 reptiles and amphibians live in the park, including two sensitive species, tidewater goby and steelhead, said State Parks Senior Environmental Scientist Richard Burg. With 52 archaeological sites recorded, the park also has a rich history dating back at least 8,000 to 10,000 years to an early Paleo-Indian culture. Some historic sites include Josepho Barn, Will Rogers’ cabin, Trippet Ranch and Topanga Ranch Motel. The next public meeting will be held in early 2010. At that meeting, State Parks will present different alternatives for the park based on responses from the first meeting in order to receive additional feedback. Those interested in making suggestions for the park should write to: Attn: Topanga SP General Planning, Southern Service Center, 8885 Rio San Diego Dr., Suite 270, San Diego, CA 92108. State Parks requests that comments be submitted as soon as possible, so they can be incorporated in the next meeting.
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