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Ventura County Focus / Countywide | THOUSAND OAKS

Hike Becomes Rally Against Golf Project

January 25, 1998|CATHY MURILLO

What began as a couple of environmentalists' hiking through Thousand Oaks' Hill Canyon to survey the site of a proposed golf course became a quiet 30-person rally for preserving the valley's open space and wetlands.

Alisse Westin, a program coordinator with the Environmental Defense Center, had originally planned a walk through the 284-acre canyon with Walter Wehtje, a biologist and area resident. Their purpose was to discuss how the proposed golfing facilities, clubhouse/banquet hall, multiuse trail system and nature center would affect the environment.

But word spread quickly among bird-watchers, hikers and environmental activists, and the tete-a-tete became a group hike with informal discussions along the way Saturday morning.

As a result of the enthusiasm generated by the sun-swept greenery and hawk-dotted sky, the Environmental Defense Center, a law firm that advocates for natural resources, scheduled an informational forum next month to educate citizens about the relatively unspoiled canyon.

"This is the wrong place for a golf course," EDC attorney John Buse said. "It's a site worth preserving for its own sake." Buse said the date of the forum will be announced shortly.

Among the hikers were Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Linda Parks; Neil Moyer, executive director of the Environmental Coalition of Ventura County; Elliott McClure, president of the Conejo Valley Audubon Society; David Magney, chairman of the California Native Plant Society; members of the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters, and a handful of other citizens.

The Hill Canyon Recreational Resources Agency, a joint powers authority of the city of Thousand Oaks and the Conejo Recreation and Parks District, is the golf course project developer. The agency estimates the cost of the course and related facilities at $20 million.

Although the public comment period has closed on the draft environmental impact report, a number of public hearings will be scheduled in the next few months as the project goes before the Thousand Oaks Planning Commission, City Council and the joint authority board. The development will also require amendments to the city's General Plan and the area's Specific Plan.

Project consultants are working with the state Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers to secure permits. They are promoting the project as a recreational amenity and cite a series of community workshops as evidence that the public favors the facility.

The draft EIR proposes ways to mitigate adverse impacts on biological resources, such as man-made wetlands to replace the 3 acres out of 28 that will be destroyed in construction. For each tree plowed under, three new trees will be planted, it says, and native vegetation lost in one area will be planted in another. The plan also calls for establishing buffer zones between fairways and wildlife habitat.

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