Officials Act To Complete Initial Phases Of Ecological Preserves

Local governmental entities have acted within the last fortnight to overcome delays and facilitate the completion of two of the region’s ecological preserves.
At its September 5 meeting, the Redlands City Council directed city staff members to work with the Redlands Conservancy to finalize the details of proposed improvements to the Redlands Gateway Ranch and the plans for an onsite caretaker to inhabit the site.
On September 12, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors extended the termination date of its grant revenue agreement with the California Coastal Conservancy by one year to complete the construction of 3.8 miles of the Santa Ana River Trail.
The Redlands Conservancy has a lease to maintain the city-owned 12-acre Redlands Gateway Ranch in Live Oak Canyon and intends to convert the property into an outdoor education center and native plant nursery and a garden featuring drought tolerant and drought resistant vegetation. On September 5, Redlands Quality of Life Director Chris Boatman introduced Sherli Leonard of the Redlands Conservancy, who presented details of the proposed improvements to the Redlands Gateway Ranch and the plans for an onsite caretaker.
Leonard said the first order of business was clearing the site, establishing a temporary abode for an onsite caretaker and initiating the conversion of some of the property into a native plant nursery. That is to begin relatively quickly, she said. Next year, Leonard said, what she termed a “staging area” would be created and trail connections established southward into Riverside County at the mouth of the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Preserve and northward into the Herngt Preserve. Later next year, she said, the existing ranch house and other buildings on the property would be restored, at which point the caretaker would move into the ranch house.
The conservancy is relying upon the provision of $240,980 in donations and grants to see the project through. She said the project will move forward “as we can get funds.”
Leonard said a problem facing the effort is the proliferation of non-native vegetation that is present in the area and which threatens to overrun the native vegetation. She said the recent Palmer fire, which charred some 3,874 acres in nearby and adjacent San Timoteo Canyon in late August had the salutary effect of eradicating some of the non-native vegetation and invasive plants surrounding the ranch.
The city council directed staff to work with the conservancy and update it on the plans and progress. “We look forward to the matter coming back to us,” said Redlands Mayor Paul Foster.
On September 12, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors followed the recommendation of the county’s newly installed regional parks director, Beahta Davis, to extend the deadline from September 30, 2017 to September 30, 2018 to complete the phase III construction of the Santa Ana River Trail, and extend the termination date from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018. Phase III is to consist of 3.8 miles of the trail from Waterman Avenue to California Street in the City of Redlands.
The Santa Ana River has its headwaters at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains near Highland and winds through San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties to its terminus in the Pacific Ocean. In 2006, California voters passed the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Act, in the form of Proposition 84 on that year’s ballot. The act authorized $45 million in general obligation bonds for the entire Santa Ana River Trail, which traverses all three counties. The California Coastal Conservancy was authorized by the State Resources Agency to administer the funds.
On January 29, 2015 the California Coastal Conservancy awarded a Proposition 84 revenue grant in the amount of $3,399,500 to the San Bernardino County Regional Parks Department for construction of a 3.8 mile segment for phase III of the Santa Ana River Parkway Trail corridor from Waterman Avenue in the City of San Bernardino to California Street in the City of Redlands, all within the County of San Bernardino. The revenue agreement to accept the grant funds was approved at the board of supervisors meeting on August 25, 2015. At that time, the completion date on the construction of that span of the trail was slated for September 30, 2017 and the termination date for the project was set at December 31, 2017.
According to Davis, “Revising the completion and termination project dates are necessary due to the length of time required to obtain permits for the inclusion of the Redlands Passenger Rail Project intersection. Additional revisions for easements of adjacent properties, utilities and areas of impact within the Santa Ana River were factors that affected the construction timeframe. Construction is scheduled to begin on December 15, 2017 and all work is expected to be completed by September 30, 2018. The grant funding will be reimbursed to the county upon proof of expenditures related to construction costs; the work shall be completed by September 30, 2018 in accordance with the agreement. Revenue and expenditures related to the county’s allotment of Proposition 84 funds will be included on a future quarterly countywide budget report.”

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