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Land Swap Could Lead to Reopening of Campground

June 23, 2002|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Closed since 1995, Blue Point Campground near Piru could reopen by 2004 under a proposed land swap between the U.S. Forest Service and the United Water Conservation District.

If Congress approves the proposal by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), the forest service would give the water district 420 acres, including a parcel on the north side of Lake Piru that the water district operates as a recreation area, and the 80-acre campground six miles northwest of the lake.

In return, the water district, which manages the Santa Clara River and its tributaries, would give the federal agency 340 acres, including western portions of Lisk Ranch, around the nine-mile Pot Holes Trail. Both agencies say the land swap will help them consolidate their holdings and better protect the endangered arroyo toad that lives in the area.

Doug West, recreation manager at Lake Piru, said he's excited about the prospect of reopening the campground.

"I've been all over the West, and for Southern California this is probably one of the most pristine, beautiful spots I've been to," he said. "You feel like you're in the Sierra when you're up there."

Cloaked in chaparral, cottonwood and oaks, with a year-round, trout-stocked creek, the 43-site campground was closed in 1995 because of concerns over the toad, West said.

A 1998 storm damaged much of Blue Point Road. Ultimately, the forest service decided it lacked the resources to reopen and maintain the campsite while protecting the frog.

The water district believes it can do both, most likely by running a shuttle to the campground to cut down on traffic. Rather than paying a campsite fee, West said, campers probably would pay for shuttle rides, up to $15 a person.

Another option is for the water district to build a parking lot a mile south of the campsite at the forest service's trail head, giving hikers and campers a place to park but asking campers to walk to their sites. That plan may encounter concerns over adequate protection for the toad, West said.

Bruce Emmens, forest lands officer for Los Padres National Forest, said his agency and the water district plan to seek public input on the trail, campsite and environmental concerns if Congress agrees to the land exchange.

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