November 2023 Meeting Report

Cambria Forest Committee November 10th, 2023 Meeting summary

Not Approved Minutes, but a helpful report by CSD Director and board liaison Harry Farmer.

November 2023 Meeting Report by Harry Farmer

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Crosby Swartz at 10:03 AM. A quorum was established. In attendance were Secretary Christine Heinrichs, Treasurer Laura Swartz, Board member Julie Jorgensen, Greenspace Executive Director Karin Argano, FFRP Executive Director Kitty Connolly, CCSD Facilities and Resources Supervisor David Aguirre, PROS Committee member Jeff Wilson, Rancho Marino Reserve Director Keith Seydel, local CA Native Plant Society representative Neil Havlik, and CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison Harry Farmer.

Karin Argano began the meeting by announcing that Greenspace the Cambria Land Trust would again be doing their Annual Tree Planting on Saturday, November 18th starting at 9AM. One thousand Monterey Pine seedlings will be planted by numerous volunteers in the San Simeon State Park area across from the Water Reclamation Facility on San Simeon Creek Road. Everyone is welcome to join in and participate, individuals as well as families. Bring gloves, a shovel, hat and water. But please, no dogs.

A brief comment was made regarding the kiosk on the grounds of the Historical Society Museum at the corner of Burton Dr and Center St, especially that much information was available, including from Greenspace and the Cambria Forest Committee.

In the Treasurer’s Report, Laura stated the CFC had $992.15 in the checking account, but that there will be $557 due in the near future for Directors and Officers insurance. She added that the focus of the Forest Committee is not to be flush with cash, but mostly to allow for a variety of voices to express themselves without any time constraints or limitations regarding the needs and concerns of the forests here in Cambria, including projects taking place that affect the local environment.

The next topic of discussion was aerial mapping of Cambria forest projects. The need for doing so is that both Cal Fire and the Resource Conservation District are reluctant to reveal how many trees are being cut down, as well as the need for pretreatment and post treatment analysis. Shannon Sutherland, who was not available to attend today’s meeting, is a licensed drone operator who may be able to provide this service in the future.

Kitty Connolly then pointed out that permission was needed from the land owners to pursue any effort of this type, For example, drones are not permitted to fly over the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. At this point Jeff Wilson spoke to the possibility of establishing a standard CFC subcommittee to address projects such as aerial mapping and fire mitigation. He noted that Forest Management is an important concern of the CFC, and he’d be more than happy to be a part of the subcommittee involved in this area.

Neil Havlik then expressed his surprise that neither CDF (California Department of Forestry) or the RCD would be required to specify how many trees had been removed at various projects. He said the term “stems per acre” is at times used to address an issue such as this, though the size of a tree removed would not necessarily be noted, nor would tree density be described. Crosby then said that in the work done on the Covell Ranch, the project stated that tree count per acre would be reduced from 500 to 200 trees.

The Forest Committee submitted written comments to the Resource Conservation District and the Coastal Commission about the lack of pre-treatment and post-treatment tree count reporting, but was told that such reporting would slow the pace and scale of their forest management projects.

Karin then addressed this issue from the perspective of Greenspace, and that work being done in Strawberry Canyon in conjunction with the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas RCD would be very specific, taking a scientific approach regarding a Forest Management plan and a Fuel Reduction program. In fact, a survey had already been done, initially creating seven sectors, then doing an extensive inventory regarding the size of each tree, sapling count, and understory, with the intention of ultimately having a thorough before and after study of the work done.

Keith Seydel then informed us the upcoming work to be done on Rancho Marino would have a pre- and post-treatment approach as well. Crosby then expressed his appreciation that more concern as to forest health and detailed work taking place was being addressed.

A short discussion about the date of the December Forest Committee took place, with the date chosen being Friday the 15th, which would occur after the PROS Committee, the Resources and Infrastructure Committee, the Fire Safe Focus Group and the CCSD Board meetings had taken place.

Crosby brought up the Vegetative Management work being done in Fern Canyon. So far the CCSD has some mowing and string trimming along the trail in the Canyon, plus a tree was taken down where the trail crosses Fern Drive. Some string trimming was also done on Burton Dr up close to the Preserve.

Crosby then asked David Aguirre to provide more detail. David added some overhanging brush was removed on Burton Dr at the CCSD easement, plus weed abatement had taken place that was approved by the Cambria Fire Department. Laura then expressed her concern that the weeding in the steeper areas of the Canyon poison hemlock had been stirred up, which will cause the hemlock to spread in the coming years. David said he was unfamiliar with this issue but would be cautious in the future.

There was also a lengthy discussion on the Fern Canyon trail connecting with Cambourne Dr heading north, including the need to put down dirt, rock or railroad ties to slow down erosion, maybe doing so with a small tractor, perhaps even using fallen trees to prevent erosion. At one point Crosby stated that no vehicles had been in the area for years, and this should not be done.

Crosby then turned to the newly restructured PROS (Parks, Recreation and Open Space) Committee, and how it would be expanding its scope of interest to include forest management as well as recreational activities on the East Ranch.

At the last PROS meeting, Chair Michael Thomas said he’d be requesting various groups such as Greenspace, the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo, the Cambria Forest Committee, and others, to present a brief monthly report on their issues of concern, therefore providing greater information and attention to PROS, the CCSD Board of Directors, and the public in general. Laura suggested that when the Forest Committee meets, attendees would be welcome to bring up issues they feel are important, the item then discussed, a consensus arrived at, and taken to the PROS Committee for consideration.

Crosby observed this is a new opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of, especially when it comes to informing new employees at the CCSD, including General Manager McElhenie. Crosby asked David about lots owned by the District. Mr Aguirre stated he’d been diligently working on this issue for about three weeks, had determined the District owns 194 lots, 141 that are covered by the conservation easement. He’s obtained APN #’s regarding weeding, and is getting as much information as possible, to which Crosby expressed his appreciation.

David also said he’s considering consulting with a local arborist, but that most of all he desires to pursue this subject on his own, then informing his employees as to the importance of the work they’re doing, and to be as knowledgeable as possible in addressing the health of trees and the natural environment.

Ways of dealing with the disease known as dwarf mistletoe was briefly discussed. Laura then informed David of our local arborist Blair McCormick who has lived in Cambria for over 40 years who is extremely knowledgable and reasonable to work with. Laura also pointed out there is a specific way to do weed abatement that lessens the possibility of weeds becoming more problematic in the future.

Julie then brought up the problem with cape ivy in Fern Canyon, and the need to be extra careful in removing it so that more of it isn’t propagated throughout the canyon. She noted her very skilled landscaper and his crew have been addressing this problem on her property for years, that removing it is incredibly time consuming, and requires diligence and patience for years for it to be done right and ultimately removed. Laura then pointed out that, due to very poor weed removal practices in years past, every weed imaginable now exists along Santa Rosa Creek, and that she has made every effort possible on their own property to slowly remove weeds and invasive grasses to where they have mainly ceased to be an ongoing problem.

Crosby asked Keith Seydel if he had anything to report regarding action being taken on Rancho Marino. Keith said US-LT RCD was still getting quotes from various contractors, and once one was chosen the fuel reduction project would begin. However, with the rainy season around the corner, work would likely not be initiated until warmer, drier weather prevailed.

FFRP Executive Director Kitty Connolly announced there would be no Thanksgiving tree planting this year because there were no trees available. And while she didn’t state the following, this is due to the destruction of the FFRP nursery resulting from the storms earlier in the year. Crosby wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and that we’d connect again at the December meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 11;00 AM. The next Forest Committee meeting will be Friday, December 15th at 10AM via Zoom.

This summary written and submitted by CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison Harry Farmer

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October 2023 Meeting Report

Cambria Forest Committee October 13, 2023 meeting summary

Not Approved Minutes, but a helpful summary, thanks to CSD Director and board liaison to CFC Harry Farmer.

October 2023 Harry Farmer report

After some conversation on a variety of environmental issues and concerns, the meeting was called to order by Chairman Crosby Swartz at 10:10 AM. In attendance were Secretary Christine Heinrichs, Treasurer Laura Swartz, Board member Julie Jorgensen, Greenspace Executive Director Karin Argano, FFRP Executive Director Kitty Connolly, PROS Committee members Shannon Sutherland and Jeff Wilson, and CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison Harry Farmer. CCSD General Manager Matt McElhenie joined the meeting at 10:30.

The meeting started with Crosby commenting on a drive he and Laura took up Bridge St, and observing the condition of the Covell Ranch following the recent Fire Safe Council fuel reduction project on the right side of the road. He remarked that the land looked well cared for, and that in talking with local CA Native Plant Society member Neil Havlik, he felt the same.

Jeff then inquired regarding the tour of Covell Ranch given by the Fire Safe Council a few months ago, and if the same could be happening in the future to observe the progress of the project.

Ms Argano provided an update on Greenspace activities. She reported that Greenspace is working with RCD (Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District), and has obtained a block grant to help fund a Forest Management Plan and a Fuel Reduction Project in Strawberry Canyon. Recently a group of folks from Greenspace, RCD and FFRP toured the Canyon, creating seven segments of the area, doing a tree count, examining understory, and taking photographs. Soon they’ll be doing a GIS (Geographic Information System) Forest Management Plan and Fuel Reduction Project in the first 21 acres beginning at the Burton Drive and Kay Street entrance.

It is hoped that work will begin by the end of 2023 depending on the weather and time available. Karin and neighbors in the area are quite enthusiastic about this.

Also, goats are going to be brought in using the 30/30/30 formula, meaning 33% eaten, 33% trampled on, and 33% left untouched. Another benefit of using goats is that they eat poison oak. There will also be a small area that will be pursued as a grass controlled weed abatement trial program. Karin added this would not be a Vegetative Treatment Program, but focused on Forest Management and Fuel Reduction that is considered normal maintenance and therefore would not require permitting.

She also said up to seven hours had been spent examining the health of the trees and other foliage, and was happy to report the majority of trees in the Canyon are in good health, for which everyone is truly grateful.

Finally, Karin stated that this past year the main focus of Greenspace was improving the Creekside Reserve on Center St. And while another planting area will be developed on the Reserve in early 2024, this coming year upgrading Strawberry Canyon would be a top priority.

At this point Shannon remarked on the support the Forest Committee had given Jeff Wilson being on the PROS Committee to counterbalance her support for recreational opportunities, especially on the East Ranch. Crosby and Laura said their support for Jeff had more to do with having an advocate for Open Space and the forested areas in Cambria. Shannon then added she is equally concerned about Open Space, as well as pursuing recreation for the youth of our community, including on the East Ranch.

Laura remarked that the Forest Committee is not opposed to activities of the East Ranch, but hopes for added attention being given to other Open Space possibilities. A bit more discussion continued to address the issue.

At this point CCSD General Manger McElhenie joined the meeting.

Crosby then turned attention to the Fern Canyon Conservation Easement, noting that the major reason for an easement is to maintain the forested areas in as natural a state as possible. He observed that weed abatement projects often exceed what is allowable by an easement, especially when more than 100 feet away from a structure. Crosby then asked the GM if he had any comments, to which Mr McElhenie stated he hoped at some point to be provided additional guidelines regarding weed abatement in open space, including Fern Canyon, and he did not wish for the District to have any negative impact on the environment.

Crosby then remarked that the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo holds the Conservation Easement, and a coordinated effort with the LCSLO should be pursued by the CCSD. Laura added that also involved is the California Coastal Conservancy that began Land Conservancy projects nearly 40 years ago. Crosby encouraged the General Manager to contact Deputy Director Daniel Bohlman at the LCSLO, who is very knowledgable and has been involved in easements in the Cambria area for years.

And while the GM expressed concern regarding how to address caring for Fern Canyon, Laura reminded him that the area is a wetlands and requires special treatment. Jeff Wilson then entered the conversation, suggesting that perhaps US-LT RCD Program Manager Spencer Gordon could be contacted by the District, in that while he will be seriously involved in the work to be done in Strawberry Canyon, he also was aware of circumstances in Fern Canyon. and talking with him might lead to a longer term management plan for that area.

Mr McElhenie remarked that much concern is being voiced by members of the community regarding the potential for fire, and he felt that while there is a need to move forward to address this concern, the needs of the natural environment must also be considered. Laura observed that most of Fern Canyon is green, most all homes nearby are over 100 feet away, so there is less need for “fuel reduction”.

Julie Jorgensen then spoke to the need to consider the steepness of the slopes and the sandy soil in that area, and once efforts are made to go uphill to do fuel reduction this would cause a tremendous amount of erosion. In addition, the soil could then wind up in the creek, doing damage to the environment in a harmful way.

GM McElhenie replied any effort in this area would be a well thought out plan.

Julie then described speaking with her insurance company who stated that her home was located in a relatively low fire risk zone. She added that the insurance company divided Cambria into several zones regarding the danger of fire, and insured accordingly. In Laura’s Treasurer’s Report, she acknowledged that two recent generous donations of $350 each had been received, of course increasing the amount of monies in the CFC account, though $500 of that money would need to go toward insurance for CFC officers.

Laura also acknowledged having finally heard from the IRS correcting the Agency’s long standing error as to the status of the Forest Committee, and that now CFC would finally be officially eligible for grant funding, and would appreciate donations as well.

Crosby gave a report from the recent Fire Safe Focus Group meeting, including the success of the recent community wide chipping event, and the continuing efforts at the removal of French Broom.

Also noted was that the Fire Safe Council presently has 55 projects active throughout SLO County, including finishing up the work on the Covell Ranch. He also briefly alluded to other projects taking place, including the ember proofing of houses in the North County, which of course would be useful in Cambria. Also reported at the meeting was that efforts of the local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) were currently on hold, though the reason was not necessarily made clear.

Crosby then acknowledged communication between himself and the CCSD, especially with F&R Supervisor David Aguirre, having recently sent him the Vacant Parcel Assessment Report, as well as sending General Manager McElhenie a copy of the Fern Canyon Conservation Easement. Laura also offered the opportunity to provide information and documents from the Land Conservancy that went back as far as 1984 to the newly formed PROS Standing Committee, including the TDC Program (Transfer of Development Credits) and the retirement of lots. Crosby remarked to Jeff Wilson, the newest member of the PROS Committee, that much of this information is available at the Forest Committee website.

Mr Wilson then asked about items on the Agenda relating to various Sub Committee Reports that were most always present, wondering if they were still active, especially as the topics seemed relevant. Crosby stated this was an excellent observation, and that the topics had been around for quite a while but not always discussed. Jeff said he would really like to see these Sub Committees activated, especially regarding Forest Management and the Fire Hazard Fuel Reduction Program, and he would be willing to be involved.

Crosby noted that District efforts at fuel reduction were currently happening on a weekly basis. A discussion then took place regarding the removal of invasive species, especially grasses. Crosby pointed out an article provided by Christine Heinrichs regarding an indigenous tribe in Wisconsin that make all of their decisions based on the first priority being action taken for the health of the forest, and that ultimately everything else falls into place over time. Laura then pointed out that local arborist Blair McCormick has been studying many of the practices of the Native Americans regarding forest management and forest health. Crosby added perhaps grant funding could be obtained to engage Mr McCormick’s services to attend to the health of Cambria’s forested areas.

At this Crosby adjourned the meeting at 11:15 AM. The next Cambria Forest Committee meeting will be on Friday, November 10th, 2023 at 10AM via Zoom.

This summary written and submitted by CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison Harry Farmer.

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September 2023 Meeting Report

Summary of the Cambria Forest Committee September 15, 2023 meeting

Not Approved Minutes, but a helpful meeting report, thanks to CSd Director and board Liaison to CFC Harry Farmer.

September 2023 Meeting Report by Harry Farmer

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Crosby Swartz at 10:07AM. Also in attendance were Secretary Christine Heinrichs, Treasurer Laura Swartz, Greenspace Executive Director Karin Argano, Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve Executive Director Kitty Connolly, Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District Board member Delores Howard, USLT RCD Program Manager Spencer Gordon, Rancho Marino Reserve Director Keith Seydel, local CA Native Plant Society representatives Neil Havlik and David Chipping, Cambria Parks Recreation and Open Space Committee member Shannon Sutherland, and CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison Harry Farmer.

Chair Swartz spoke briefly regarding Director and Officer Liability Insurance, recommending that this be renewed, and stated any donations made by Committee members toward this would be welcomed. The policy is roughly $500 annually.

There were no Public or Director Comments or Reports.

There were no Minutes for the August 11th CFC meeting, but Chair Swartz referred to the Meeting Summary provided by CCSD Director and liaison Farmer in the CCSD meeting Agenda packet.

The Treasurer’s Report indicated, due to recent expenses, only $167.15 remain in the CFC bank account. Treasurer Swartz indicated she will be making a contribution to help cover the CPA costs for the Tax Return. She also reported she’s not heard back from the IRS regarding the Business Master File, which is important to have when seeking grant funding.

Chair Swartz then discussed Agenda Item 5.1.: Native American Forest Management Practices. He remarked that if decisions are made with the priority being the health of the forest that everything falls into place. By removing only dead and dying trees and leaving the healthiest ones no matter the size, the forest will ultimately flourish.

Discussion took place regarding having before and after photos of forested areas where fuel reduction treatments had taken place. Ms Sutherland offered her services, having the ability to fly drones and utilize aerial photography. David Chipping stated that the County has photographs available using Google Earth that were recently taken that could be helpful.

At one point a comment was made as to the Cambria Fire Department fuel reduction report, and that over 500 properties had yet to be cleared as of September, when the number is usually closer to 150. Mr Chipping spoke to the need for greater efforts being made by the CCSD to provide much needed fuel reduction in Cambria, and perhaps have the hired contractor train District Facilities and Resources employees in doing this work.

At this point Ms Heinrichs alluded to a recent decision made by CA State Parks to no longer make the effort to remove thistle and mustard, having declared them “uncontrollable”. She said she would try to get in touch with State Senator John Laird and Assemblyman Dawn Addis to address this issue, feeling that it is an unacceptable policy. Mr Chipping said he’s observed less maintenance work being done in local State Parks this past year, perhaps due to they’re being less staff available to do the work. Ms Heinrichs then said that successful volunteer efforts from various groups in recent years such as the Sierra Club were being discontinued.

Neil Havlik then jumped back to the previous topic of aerial vegetative mapping, saying that the South County Resource Conservation District was pursuing these efforts from Morro Bay to Avila and Pismo Beach down to Oceano. He suggested that Cambria would be better served by doing our own drone surveys. Shannon then added she was a licensed drone pilot and had the necessary software needed to do the work.

Spencer Gordon then remarked that he was involved with the South County Vegetative Treatment Project, and they would also be helping out in North County, such as Santa Margarita Lake, as well as in coastal areas, and the work was very detailed and “fine scaled”.

David Chipping remarked on how confusing it can be to identify what is healthy vegetation that needs to remain as opposed to what should not continue to exist. Crosby then pointed out the difficulty to the untrained eye to determine perennial grasses that should remain versus annual “weeds” turning brown that should be removed.

Under New Business, Crosby pointed out the PROS Commission is now the PROS Standing Committee, with CCSD Director Michael Thomas being the new Chair, with the first meeting being Tuesday, October 3rd at 10AM. Therefore, it would be good to attend the meetings and assist the Committee in determining what topics and projects PROS should address versus where not to focus their energies.

Crosby pointed out that Shannon has organized a list of local 501(c)(3)’s to identify and promote what they do. Shannon then stated she’s encouraged representatives of these groups to attend the October 3rd meeting and inform the Committee and the public as to what they wish to accomplish, hopefully leading to more effective coordination of the efforts involved.

At this point Kitty pointed out how important addressing Open Space will be moving forward. Shannon emphasized the necessity of putting the “O” back in PROS, and determining which groups in our community are doing so. Laura pointed out there is now a vacant seat on PROS, and how helpful it would be to have someone with an environmental outlook to be seated on this new Committee, thereby giving a permanent voice to an often overlooked subject that always needs attention.

Crosby indicated that recently PROS has focused almost exclusively on the East Ranch and the Community Park, while there’s a need to give equal attention to activities on both the East and West Ranch. Laura noted there are open lots also owned by the CCSD throughout Cambria, and how attention must be paid to complications such as permitting, the Buildout Reduction Program, and so forth, adding that her and Crosby had been attending PROS meetings for years, and they’ve mostly wanted their voice to be heard.

Shannon added her frustration in also not seeing “things get done”, then assertively pointed out the need for various environmental organizations in town to begin attending PROS meetings, hopefully present their concerns, recommending how to address issues of importance regarding the natural world around us.

Crosby then pointed out how complicated various Conservation Easements could be, and dealing with the CA Coastal Conservancy and other State Agencies. Laura mentioned the need to bring this information forward to the PROS Committee. Crosby added the conservation of open space lots, especially those owned by the CCSD, is required due to past agreements and legal issues, and efforts should be made by the District as to land conservation.

Karin pointed out that Jeff Wilson, a member of the Greenspace Board, pays much attention to what is happening environmentally, providing monthly reports, attending various Board and Committee meetings, and speaking to the issues of importance. Shannon then said she’d be putting Greenspace reports on the monthly PROS Committee Agenda. Laura added that the SLO Land Conservancy is also involved in Cambria open space and needs to voice and represent their concerns as well.

Crosby then moved to Unfinished Business, and the topic of Coastal Zone Vegetative Treatment Standards. He pointed out this is a document in the VTP EIR, and is required to be referenced regarding projects to be addressed in the Coastal Zone. There are two types of projects, Forest Health and Fire Prevention.

He remarked how confusing various requirements were, making it difficult to separate “defensible space” around homes and structures versus attending to the overall well being of forested areas. Neil Havlik pointed out that the Native Plant Society has emphasized the need for a standard in balancing Forest Health versus Fire Prevention, and the need to leave at least 25% of ground cover such as toyon, oaks and coffee berry rather than removing all understory.

Crosby addressed the confusing situation of Cal Fire being responsible for inspecting developed properties in Cambria, while the Cambria Fire Department has authority over undeveloped parcels, and how once demands increase on Cal Fire they have less time to address defensible space requirements in residential areas surrounded by the forest.

Briefly touched upon was the extensive removal of understory by Cal Fire on the Fiscalini Ranch close to Highway One that took place several years ago. Laura pointed out that while some some ground cover such as coffee berry had returned, there was now a severe abundance of poison oak. Crosby said at least some healthy trees were left, and many were returning despite the aggressive nature of the project.

Both Crosby and Laura expressed concern that more recent and current projects are removing far more trees and understory, therefore compromising forest health.

Crosby then pointed out the need to connect with the new General Manager, the recently hired Fire Chief and Facilities and Resources Supervisor, and for Forest Committee attendees to let Crosby know what important environmental issues they need to be made aware of. Shannon suggested that perhaps whatever concerns need addressing should be presented at a PROS meeting, encouraging further dialogue and discussion. Neil recommended taking a more informal approach among various groups that would allow for a more wide ranging discussion of the issues. Shannon highlighted the need for a comprehensive maintenance plan to address environmental and other needs and concerns, including weed abatement.

Other topics were briefly discussed, including concerning the US-LT RCD. The meeting was adjourned at 11:18 AM.

The next Cambria Forest Committee meeting will be Friday, October 13th at 10AM via Zoom.

This summary written and submitted by CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison Harry Farmer.

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August 2023 Meeting Report

August 2023 Harry Farmer Meeting Report

Not Approved Minutes, but a helpful report by CSD Director and board liaison Harry Farmer.


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July 14, 2023 Cambria Forest Committee Meeting Summary

Not Approved Minutes, but a helpful report by CSD Director and board liaison Harry Farmer.

July 2023 Harry Farmer Meeting Report

Prior to the beginning of the meeting a brief discussion took place regarding the potential Lodge Hill emergency evacuation route through Rancho Marino southward, as the topic had been discussed at yesterday’s CCSD Board meeting. Rancho Marino Reserve Director Keith Seydel commented that SLO County engineering would need to survey the area to see if the project were even possible, as right now it is, “literally a cow path”, and would cost several million dollars to create a road useable in an emergency. Fire Safe Focus Group Chair David Pierson agreed on the cost of the project, that presently approval for construction of the road was being sought from the property owners on whose land the road would be built, and if this happened, somehow the money would become available.

Ultimately the meeting began at 10:07AM.

In attendance were Chair Crosby Swartz, Treasurer Laura Swartz, Secretary Christine Heinrichs, PROS Commissioner Shannon Sutherland, California Native Plant Society local area representative Neil Havlik, FSFG Chair David Pierson (who left the meeting around 10:30), Rancho Marino Reserve Director Keith Seydel, and CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison Harry Farmer.

Under Public and Director Comments, Laura spoke with serious concern as to invasive grasses, especially orchard grass, becoming more prevalent on Fiscalini Ranch, and that while weeding takes place close to the bluff trail, the forested/wooded areas are being overrun, presenting both a visual problem and a fire hazard.

Crosby informed us the minutes of the June 2nd CFC meeting are not yet available.

In the Treasurer’s Report, Laura reported no new revenues or expenses since last month. Due to the extension of the tax filing deadline, our accountant plans to file our tax return in October.

Under Sub-Committee Reports, Crosby remarks that today, Friday, July 14th, is the deadline for Cambria Fire Department Fuel Reduction program to have been observed by property owners, and from now on the District would hire a contractor to do the needed weeding and then bill the property owner. This includes District property in the Conservation Easement.

Crosby added that the search for a Supervisor for the Facilities and Resources Department to replace Carlos Mendoza, who recently resigned, was taking place. Crosby remarked that the job requirements were fairly extensive, more so than in the past. Laura added that perhaps more than one person could be hired to fulfill the needs of the position, including local experts such as a Forest Arborist/Ecologist, and perhaps various contractors or consultants could be utilized to do needed work, especially regarding forest health. Crosby suggested that perhaps a test case could be temporarily hiring a Forest Ecologist/Arborist to assess the health of the Strawberry Canyon area.

An observation was made that our recently hired General Manager Matt McElhenie did not necessarily have forest health as a priority, and perhaps a meeting could be arranged with him by interested parties such as Crosby Swartz from the CFC, and Greenspace Executive Director Karin Argano, to address the issue. It was noted that Mr McElhenie has already met with representatives of the Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

At this point Parks, Recreation, and Open Space (PROS) representative Shannon Sutherland addressed the importance of the health and utilization of Cambria’s open space, how these areas should be managed, and the possibility of bringing various interest groups under one umbrella to help provide input and oversight. Laura suggested that perhaps someone from the Forest Committee be a member of PROS.

A discussion also took place as to the CCSD Board of Directors soon changing PROS from a Commission, as it’s been for many years, to a Standing Committee serving in the same capacity as the Resources and Infrastructure, Finance and Policy Committees. How this would affect the functioning of PROS is not quite understood at this time.

Shannon spoke as to the various 501(c)3’s in our community with their own special interests, and how this has hampered efforts to get more accomplished, especially in working collaboratively with the County in getting projects initiated. It was pointed out that the relationship between Greenspace the Cambria Land Trust, and Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve (FFRP) that has been difficult in the past was now much improved, and Greenspace had many informed, motivated and well intentioned members whose talents need to be taken advantage of. Laura pointed out the importance of getting all the various environmental groups in the area working together, and consensus was that ultimately organizations could work together with the common goal of doing what is best for Cambria’s wooded, forested areas and open space.

At this point a meaningful discussion took place regarding wooded areas that in decades past were available for hiking, the enjoyment of the natural environment and the beauty of nature for emotional well being, and how these areas have become more recently become inaccessible.

Also noted was that, while most folks have treated the environment with reverence and respect, other folks have, and still, pollute and therefore spoil the experience for everyone.

Winding down, Crosby reported that, at their June meeting, the California Coastal Commission approved four Forest Management projects nearby and in Cambria that will be implemented by Cal Fire and the Fire Safe Council of SLO. He expressed his disappointment that written comments provided by himself and representatives from Greenspace and the Native Plant Society were somewhat ignored, and that probably in the future clear and credible scientific data needed to be included to further enhance more pro environmental viewpoints. He pointed out that Las Padres Forest Watch has been quite successful in voicing their opposition and preventing various fuel reduction projects that ultimately do more harm than anything else.

A brief discussion then took place regarding the use of prescribed/controlled burns in limiting forest fires.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:10 AM.

The next Cambria Forest Committee meeting will be Friday, August 11th at 10AM via Zoom.

This summary written and submitted by CCSD Board Director and liaison Harry Farmer

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June 2023 Meeting Report

Cambria Forest Committee June 2nd, 2023 Meeting Summary

Not Approved Minutes, but a helpful report by CSD Director and board liaison Harry Farmer.

June 2023 Harry Farmer Meeting Report

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Crosby Swartz at 10:05 AM.

Just prior to the start of the meeting Crosby mentioned that Greenspace and the Cambria Forest Committee had sent a joint letter to the California Coastal Commission addressing the Fuel Reduction Projects in the Cambria area to be discussed and ruled on by the CCC at their June 7th meeting. A copy of this letter is enclosed at the end of this summary.

Coastal Commission May 30 2023 Cambria Forest Committee and Greenspace Comment Letter

Coastal Commission Staff Response 6-6-23

Crosby also explained how to attend the meeting and present one’s concerns, and that this month’s CFC meeting is earlier than usual, on the first Friday of the month instead of the second Friday, so folks could be more prepared regarding any comments they’d wish to make to the Coastal Commission.

In attendance at today’s meeting were CFC Chair Crosby Swartz, Treasurer Laura Swartz, Greenspace Executive Director Karin Argano, Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Executive Director Kitty Connolly, Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District Assistant Project Manager Eli Ginsberg, Rancho Marino Preserve Director Keith Seydel, California Native Plant Society representative Neil Havlik, and Harry Farmer, CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison.

CNPS local representative Neil Havlik began the discussion by again expressing his concerns regarding the shrub component and the potential excessive removal of the shrub layer on the planned projects, especially Rancho Marino. He said it would be unrealistic to expect workers with chain saws to be reasonably attentive to the details of the work being done, and hoped that someone would be on site such as a “biological monitor” to oversee what’s taking place and marking the areas to be saved.

At this point Karin Argano spoke to Neil’s concerns by describing her reaction on the recent Covell Ranch tour, stating she was “pleasantly surprised” with the work done by the crews, including being sensitive to the wildlife such as deer and frogs. She added that the presentation by the supervisor gave her, “ a boost of confidence, a glimmer of hope.”

Eli Ginsberg added that monitors would be supervising the crews on the Rancho Marino project, including US-LTRCD Project Manager Spencer Gordon and Rancho Marino PD Keith Seydel, and that the group doing the work on the Covell Ranch are known as, “the Great Tree Tenders”.

Neil then stated that while he was “glad to hear” the good news of what had been done and what was planned, he again expressed concern that the deer could possibly retard the reestablishment of shrubs, their own nesting habitat and food source.

Laura then gave her observations of the work done on the Covell Ranch, including many trees removed, much chipping having been done, and that poison oak as well as invasives such as orchard grass had come back, and there was a need to be proactive in this area to prevent invasives returning.

Treasurer Swartz then provided a brief update on finances, and continuing involvement with the Committee’s accountant.

Continuing along the same topic, Crosby then offered his assessment of the work done on the Covell Ranch as a result of the recent tour, saying that the area had, “a nice look to it” as a result of the abundance of rain in recent months, also that it was obvious much work had been done such as tree thinning and chipping, and it would be helpful to tour the area again in the dry season to witness the results of what had been done.

Laura remarked there needs to be “a happy medium, a middle ground”, not either too much removal or none at all. The upcoming CA Coastal Commission meeting was again brought up, observing that on June 7th about one hour would be devoted to Public Comment to the various Cambria projects on Agenda Item 17 that would likely be occurring later in the day.

Karin stated that Greenspace would probably not be commenting, as they were happy with the letter written by Crosby and cosigned by Crosby and Greenspace President John Seed. She added that, observing past history with other agencies, Letters are more influential to Commissioners and Staff than verbal public comment. The comment letter to the Coastal Commission and the Coastal Staff response are posted on the Coastal Commission website Look for June 7th Agenda Item 17, Correspondence, and Addendum.

No new Future Agenda Items were brought up, and a presentation by Steve Auten of the Auten Consulting Group and US-LTRCD PM Spencer Gordon is still being considered.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:50 AM.

The next CFC meeting will be on Friday, July 14th, at 10 AM via Zoom.

This summary written and submitted by CCSD Director and CFC liaison Harry Farmer.

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May 2023 Meeting Report

Cambria Forest Committee May 12, 2023 Meeting Summary

Not Approved Minutes, but a helpful report by CSD Director and board liaison Harry Farmer.

May 2023 Harry Farmer Meeting Report

The meeting was called to order at 10:05 AM by Committee Chair Crosby Swartz.

Also present were CFC treasurer Laura Swartz, CFC secretary Christine Heinrichs, CFC Board member Julie Jorgensen, Greenspace Executive Director Karin Argano and GS Board member Jeff Wilson, Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve Executive Director Kitty Connolly, Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District Project Manager Spencer Gordon, Rancho Marino Preserve Director Keith Seydel, California Native Plant Society representative Neil Havlik, and Harry Farmer, CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison.

The meeting began with Laura Swartz expressing her wish that the CCSD’s Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Commission (PROS) would have as much of an interest in open space as recreation, and that perhaps someone involved with the Cambria Forest Committee (CFC) could attend their meetings and perhaps become a Commission member. Jeff Wilson stated that he attended the PROS meetings as a Board member of Greenspace, and felt that activities planned for the East Ranch were in open space, pointing out that there were no sports fields or anything extensive being considered. Kitty Connolly added that the main concern of FFRP regarding the Ranch was the Conservation Easement, and that the group was neutral on proposed East Ranch activities.

Treasurer Laura Swartz reported no income or expenditures in the past month, and that she was still working with CPA Lynn Singer regarding the IRS tax return.

Then began a detailed and passionate discussion as to the desire for Cambria to have a Forest Ecologist to help oversee the Cambria Forest Management Plan. Jeff addressed the fact that at the recent CCSD Board meeting this issue was briefly discussed. It was pointed out that funding a Forest Ecologist through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was included in the 2017 Forest Management Plan (FMP). Jeff added it would be valuable to have a Forest Ecologist perspective on treatment plans. Kitty added she would have trouble with the Cambria Fire Department being involved with forest maintenance. Crosby said while finding the right person and funding the position would be a challenge, that perhaps a part time position might work best, adding that the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo has a Forest Ecologist who might be available on a consulting basis. He pointed out that hiring someone who would be agreeable to both Cal Fire and the environmental community could be difficult. Jeff then stated we should continue to develop a pathway toward success, to which Crosby agreed.

Comments were then made addressing the planning and execution of the updated Cambria Hazardous Mitigation Plan. Spencer Gordon addressed the issue, stating the US-LTRCD and their associates Auten Resource Consulting and Ascent Environmental Inc were concerned with both public safety and the preservation of natural resources. Julie wondered how treatment plans have changed in recent years, and why? Speculation was any changes would be due to the increase in fire size and frequency. Spencer said that he did not have much updated information, and there was no published research regarding fire and the Monterey Pines.

Another lengthy discussion ensued, beginning with Crosby expressing his concern regarding tree count, and that any situation that would result in fewer trees would be questionable and of serious concern, especially as the result would be less absorption of carbon dioxide. Neil Havlik then spoke at length on the topic, beginning with the proposed thinning projects, and what would be the ultimate goal. While he said he was okay with removing 4” diameter or less Monterey Pines as they continue to reproduce, he was more worried about maintaining the diversity of the understory, especially as he felt this part of the forest was”decimated” on the initial Covell Ranch project. He said that he “doesn’t trust young men wielding chain saws”, and them making judgements on what needs removing. He emphasized the value of understory such as toyon, coffee berry and oaks, and how it supports wildlife such as birds and small mammals, and the importance of the shrub component maintaining the overall health of the forest. He added it would be hard to grasp the overall impact of the projects on the horizon, including work to be done on Rancho Marino.

Spencer interjected that he, Steve Auten and Keith Seydel would be providing oversight and verbally advising the crews working on Rancho Marino. Jeff Wilson added we also need to be concerned about the proposed projects at the Point on the Hearst Ranch, as well as work to be done in the very extensive forested area around Pico Creek. He questioned the Treatment Plan being developed and the actual work that would be done.

Spencer responded by stating that the US-LTRCD would be responsible for monitoring all projects during the pre, present and after phases and reporting to the CA Coastal Commission as well as the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Neil once again expressed his concern regarding the education and mindset of the crews, and the possibility of “overkill”.

Laura also wondered about the removal of invasive plants such as French Broom. Spencer responded by stating that deadwood would be removed first, followed by invasives, and then live trees and other plants existing in abundance.

Crosby observed that restrictions should be an important part of the Project Specific Analysis (PSA) addressing each of the proposed endeavors. As the meeting was winding down, Spencer stated that the RCD would make every effort to provide as much transparency as possible, both to the public and the involved agencies, and encouraged everyone to monitor the CCC website as to when information would be provided on their June Agenda, and then take the opportunity to submit written public comment.

Crosby said he and Kitty would have a column together at the CambriaCA website addressing the discussed projects of concern, and that it was important to note that all of these projects are adjacent to, and will therefore have an impact, on Cambria.

Under Future Agenda Items, Crosby hoped for a possible seminar in July featuring Registered Professional Forester Steve Auten and RCD Project Manager Spencer Gordon.

In addition, next month the Cambria Forest Committee will be meeting on the FIRST Friday of the month, June 2nd at 10AM via Zoom, as to allow everyone to attend the CCC meeting the following week, when the Commission would be addressing the Projects discussed today.

This very active and involved meeting was adjourned at 11:38 AM

This summary written and submitted by CCSD Board Director and liaison Harry Farmer.

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April 2023 Meeting Report

Cambria Forest Committee April 14th, 2023 meeting summary

The meeting was called to order at 10:05 AM by Committee Chair Crosby Swartz.

Not Approved Minutes, but a helpful report by CSD Director and board liaison Harry Farmer.

April 2023 Harry Farmer Meeting Report

Also present were CFC treasurer Laura Swartz, CFC secretary Christine Heinrichs, Greenspace Executive Director Karin Argano and GS Board member Jeff Wilson, Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve Executive Director Kitty Connolly, Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Resource Conservation District Project Manager Spencer Gordon, Rancho Marino Preserve Director Keith Seydel, and Harry Farmer, CCSD Board Director and CFC liaison.

The first report of the meeting was provided by FFRP ED Kitty Connolly. She informed us of the upcoming fundraiser this weekend, Friday April 14th through Sunday the 16th at the new Brydges Restaurant on Bridge St. All wine sales and corkage fees will be donated to support the Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

Kitty also promoted the Greenspace Earth Day event on April 22nd as well as the 3 day weekend Earth Day happening at the Cambria Nursery.

Of course the big event taking place is the return of the Cambria Wildflower Show on Saturday and Sunday, April 29th and 30th, at the Cambria Veteran’s Hall. After a three-year absence due to the covid 19 pandemic, this wonderful happening is much anticipated. This is one of the finest events of this type in the State, with roughly 500 examples of dozens of varieties of plants to treat the viewer to the wonders of nature.

In addition, we were informed that design and construction of the Boardwalk linking the Bluff Trail to the Marine Terrace Fire Road would be going out to bid in May.

Kitty also mentioned she is now the Environmental Editor for the on line weekly community newspaper CambriaCA continuing to be put together by John Rohrbaugh. Thank you John!

Greenspace the Cambria Land Trust Executive Director Karin Argano provided more details on the April 22nd Earth Day event at the Greenspace Preserve on Center St. Taking place from 11AM-3PM, many food and beverage vendors and information booths will be on site, as well as live music and a kid’s zone. This will be a fun and super educational event celebrating the beauty of nature in Cambria and everywhere, with the world wide Earth Day theme, “Invest In Our Planet”.

In addition, Karin remarked on the impact of the recent storm on Strawberry Canyon, from downed trees, especially at the lower entrance, to very muddy and difficult to walk trails, and advised using the upper trail. The Chinese Temple at the Reserve that was recently broken into is being repaired and looked fine for the Earth Day event.

Greenspace is also in need of a part time administrative assistant to work 15-20 hours a week.

Treasurer Laura Swartz stated that just $267.15 remains the the CFC bank account, and that the tax report will be filed with the IRS through accountant Lynn Singer by May 15th.

A report was provided by Dan Turner from the Fire Safe Focus Group, highlighting the Wildlife Preparedness/Fire Safety Town Hall on Saturday, May 6th from 10AM-1PM at the Cambria Veteran’s Hall. Speakers will be available via Zoom, including environmental scientist and educator Dr Sarah Bisbing. The many posters created by the youth of our community addressing fire safety and the environment will be on display, and the winner announced. This event is not only informative but helps to maintain the Fire Wise insurance rating status for Cambria.

Jeff Wilson remarked on the need for greater clarity and reporting requirements for PSA’s (Project Specific Analysis), and to do periodic reporting. Spencer Gordon responded by saying an effort was being made by the US-LTRCD working with Cal Fire to have more consistent reporting. Being considered was a weekly system showing specific project requirements being implemented along with a short description. Jeff then emphasized that reports should be made public.

We were reminded that the next SLO County Fire Safe Council meeting would be on Wednesday, May 17th at 9AM combined with Cambria’s Fire Safe Focus Group at the Cambria Veteran’s Hall. Following later in the morning will be a tour of the Covell Ranch, with a limited number of attendees available. Reservations will be required, details to be provided.

Under New Business, a discussion took place regarding the Comment Letter to the CA Coastal Commission addressing the Hearst Ranch and Cambria Reserve Projects being proposed by Cal Fire and US-LTRCD. At present revisions are being considered by the US-LTRCD and the Coastal Commission staff as to how to incorporate changes into the project description. The hope is to get revisions back by April 20th prior to the US-LTRCD Board meeting on April 27th. The month of May will be available to provide more comments to Coastal Commission staff early enough for them to accommodate revisions to forward to the Commissioners for their June 7th-9th meetings being done virtually via Zoom. Crosby will also be putting together an article reflecting public comment on this very important subject to be available in CambriaCA.

Crosby also talked about the standards of the California Vegetative Treatment Program (CalVTP) in the Coastal Zone, and the very detailed report available describing the effectiveness of various forest management treatments.

It was announced that the Sudden Oak Death Annual Sampling Project organized by Cal Fire will take place on Saturday and Sunday, May 6th and 7th, and volunteers are needed to assist in this endeavor. The work is done through a Smartphone app and GPS location. Thankfully SOD is not prevalent in our area. Anyone interested can contact Crosby.

CCSD Board Director Harry Farmer announced that the Board had selected a new General Manager for the District, Matt McElhenie, that he’d been given an employment agreement, and would be introduced to the public at the next CCSD Board meeting on April 20th.

Christine Heinrichs announced that “Tales From the Cambria Woods Volume 2” is being put together, and that commentaries from the community would be needed and much appreciated. Volume One from many years ago consisted of articles submitted to “The Cambrian” newspaper which is sadly no longer in existence in lengthy print form. Christine also announced she would like to step down as Secretary and the CFC is looking for someone to fill that position.

Karin reported that the trees planted by Greenspace volunteers in recent years, including the 1,000 tres planted this past November followed by the abundance of rain, have produced a major increase in the return of a variety of wildlife, especially birds. This is very good news!!, including the fact that trees are so important in absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2).

Karin also announced that she has a UCSC doctoral student calculating the carbon footprint taking place on the Central Coast.

As the meeting was winding down, Spencer Gordon then produced the Rancho Marino Preserve Project map, including the shaded fuel break adjacent to Randall Rd, and the cleaning up of downed trees and dead wood, most all of the work being done by hand. Tree retention will be of 150-250 trees per acre, and 15-20% or more shrub retention. Also, a 75 foot buffer zone will be maintained in riparian areas, and a 100 foot buffer zone around wood rat nests and nesting birds. He also announced that while originally the Rancho Marino Project was to cover 187 acres, the priority work areas have been reduced to 40 acres.

Under Future Agenda Items and Speakers, Steve Auten of Auten Resource Consulting/US-LTRCD is being considered and will be contacted.

Crosby adjourned the meeting at 11:04 AM. The next Cambria Forest Committee meeting will be on Friday, May 12th at 10AM via Zoom.

This summary written and submitted by CCSD Board Director Harry Farmer.

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March 2023 Minutes



Meeting Minutes

March 10 2023 Minutes

March 10, 2023, 10:00 AM Video Teleconference

1.0   Chair Crosby Swartz called the meeting to Order at 10 am. A Quorum was established by attendance of Crosby and Laura Swartz, Cambria CSD liaison Harry Farmer, and CFC Secretary Christine Heinrichs. FFRP executive director Kitty Connolly, Rancho Marino director Keith Seydel, California Native Plant Society representative Neil Havlik, Greenspace board member Jeff Wilson and Greenspace executive director Karin Argano, and USLTRCD project manager Spencer Gordon also attended.

2.0     Public and Director Comments and Reports

Cambria was experiencing a severe storm on this date. The fire chief had requested all shelter in place for the duration, to avoid further problems and allow emergency workers to work.

Keith reported that while the creek hadn’t closed the road, it was running over. He showed the group water running through his classroom. He stayed for part of the meeting but had to leave to manage flooding before the meeting ended.

Karin said that about 70 trees had come down in Strawberry Canyon. Trails will need a lot of maintenance after the storm is over. She may have to postpone a class field trip to the Canyon scheduled for March 29. Kitty offered Fiscalini Ranch for the students in the event Strawberry Canyon is not safe.

Kitty reported that the screenhouse, not fully a greenhouse, has water running through it. She is working on a Letter of Interest, in collaboration with Greenspace, for a $50,000 grant, due this day, to plant pollinator plants.

3.0  Approval of Minutes of Previous Meeting was deferred. Harry’s liaison reports to the CCSD are helpful, see attached.

4.0  Treasurer’s Report

Laura reported the bank balance is $297.15 “We are living within our means,” she said.

5.0  Sub-Committee Reports

The rest of the meeting was devoted to discussion of the CalVTP Project-Specific Analysis and PWP Coastal Vegetation Treatment Standards for the Cambria Reserves Restoration and Vegetation Treatment Project, CalVTP Project ID: 2022-36, and the Hearst Ranch Forest Health Fuels Reduction Project, Project Specific Analysis, posted to the Cambria Forest Committee website under Forest-Related Documents, CalVTP, and

Points of concern:

Viewing the forests as fuel and fuel reduction as key to forest management sidesteps important management issues. Young trees are the big trees of the future.

The PSAs extend the 100-foot Defensive Space area applicable to residential structures to the entire Cambria forest. This is inappropriate for forested areas and other standards should apply.

Community organizations should have an opportunity to review ongoing work and comment. Covell Ranch is under a Conservation Easement and the public should have access to it.

Standards requiring reduction in number of trees should be revised to allow for variety of tree sizes and ages rather than removing all trees below a certain DBH, in this case 8”. Removal of all young and small trees reduces the forest’s ability to evolve and respond to changing climate conditions.

Removal of understory allows open space to be hotter and drier. Non-native grasses and invasives such as French broom replace native shrubs.

Piled vegetation should be burned with caution to protect nearby trees and avoid fire escape. Non-natives such as French broom should be cut before going to seed. Cutting after allows seed to be scattered for future regrowth.

Consider the value of the forest for sequestering CO2 and retain trees appropriately.

Test plots should be created to compare treatments: number and size of trees removed, mechanical and mastication compared to hand cutting and spreading branches. Test plots were established for the Covell Ranch project at the urging of CNPS, but CNPS representatives were not invited to review the results.

James Allen’s 2019 update on Fiscalini Ranch was criticized by the County Fire Safe Council business manager Dan Turner. Crosby will provide that report to Spencer Gordon.

Keith will work with Spencer on how the PSA will apply to Rancho Marino. It should be maintained as a reference area reserve, with the exception of the Randall Road fuel break.

The CalVTP process allows for public comment at several points, such as the RCD hearing and directly to the Coastal Commission. The public, as individuals and through organizations such as the Cambria Forest Committee, Greenspace the Cambria Land Trust, Friends of Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, and California Native Plant Society, can participate by submitting comments at every opportunity.

6.0  Report from Fire Safe Focus Group

Rancho Marino, San Simeon Point and Pico Creek Project Analyses

7.0  New Business

7.1   Comment Letter on Cambria Reserves and Hearst Ranch Project Descriptions

Crosby will write a comment letter ( and distribute it for approval to directors and signing by Greenspace. He will include citations of research papers that support changing attitudes in the Fire Science community toward forest maintenance.

Next Meeting April 14, 2023



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February 2023 Meeting Report

Summary of Cambria Forest Committee Meeting of February 10, 2023

Not Approved Minutes, but a helpful report by CSD Director and board liaison Harry Farmer.

February 2023 Harry Farmer report

The meeting was called to order just after 10AM by Committee Chair Crosby Swartz.

In attendance were CFC treasurer Laura Swartz, FFRP Executive Director Kitty Connolly, Greenspace Executive Director Karin Argano, GS Board member Jeff Wilson, Rancho Marino Preserve Director Keith Seydel, Fire Safe Focus Group Chair David Pierson, Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District Project Manager Spencer Gordon, US-LT RCD Project Assistant Eli Grinberg, and Cambria CSD Board Director Harry Farmer. Joining a bit later was CFC Board member Julie Jorgensen.

The meeting began with Spencer Gordon introducing recently hired Eli Grinberg. Eli is a Cal Poly graduate with a degree in Resource Management, with an emphasis 0n Wildlife Biology. He has a diverse background, including being employed by SLO County Parks and Rec, having once worked at Shamel Park here in Cambria. He’s been an aide to Dr Sarah Bisbing, associate professor in the Dept of Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the Univ of Nevada Reno, and has assisted in developing the forestry plots at the Fiscalini Ranch and Rancho Marino, so is familiar with Cambria and various forestry projects taking place in our community.

Crosby then provided a report regarding tree planting at Camp Ocean Pines. As a result of a grant from the Cambria Community Council, and funding from Greenspace and the Forest Committee, many tree seedlings, as well as planting tools and potting materials, were gifted to COP. The plantings have been quite successful, and the plan is to show visiting campers how to plant and care for trees.

Next was a report from Mr Gordon regarding the recent Fire Safe Focus Group meeting. Forest Management consultant Steve Auten and Cal Fire’s Randy McFarland provided a detailed summary of the drafting of a Project Specific Analysis for fuel reduction on the Hearst Ranch, especially the area known as the Point. Presently the project is going through the US-LT RCD environmental review process, with the final draft anticipated in the next couple of months. RCD Board approval is expected in the Spring, with the Project then being forwarded to the California Coastal Commission for further review around June 7th. Once approved the project will likely begin in Spring of 2024.

In addition, the PSA for Rancho Marino and the Cambria Ecological Preserve is still being reviewed and on the same time line as the Hearst Ranch Projects, with approval by the CCC also anticipated on June 7th. Spencer also says he’s working with Steve Auten on the environmental review for the Rancho Marino project.

Jeff Wilson questioned Spencer for a bit more detail as to how these projects were moving forward, and the various stakeholders involved. Spencer remarked that these situations could be a bit complicated, but would be similar to the Covell Ranch project. Jeff then asked about the specific role of a Forest Ecologist in the prescriptive planning process, and how the Forest Ecology perspective could be involved with the RCD in the coming years.

Crosby then added that the key player in these various projects is the California Coastal Commission and their staff, as all these Vegetative Treatment Projects are in the State coastal zone.

Laura Swartz then expressed concern as to who will be monitoring the work being done, as this would be a critical part of the process. Spencer said that while moving forward had not been specifically determined, Auten Resource Consulting, Randy McFarland from Cal Fire, and himself, would be overseeing the project on Rancho Marino. He also commented that boots on the ground would be overseeing the daily operation so the work being done didn’t stray from the original concept. Keith Seydel then added that he would also be overseeing what was taking place. Laura again expressed the need for all guidelines to be followed, referring in addition to the Covell Ranch as well as the Hearst project.

Karin Argano from Greenspace then addressed the issue, expressing the disappointment of herself and others as to the extensive number of trees that had been cut down on the Covell Ranch. In attending the FSFG meeting she was happy to hear that the emphasis would be on using hand crews as opposed to mastication at the Hearst Ranch and Pico Creek.

She also expressed her appreciation that the various environmental interest groups would be kept up to speed as to what was happening. Spencer said every effort would be made to provide up to date information and allow for public comment on the projects.

Laura also commented on the serious need to remove French Broom, an invasive plant that grows throughout Cambria and can be problematic for the native vegetation in Cambria’s forest. She said that removal of broom was often done after the seeds had germinated, and that it was most important to cut down and remove the broom before it went to seed or it would always continue to be a problem. This was especially the case when the plants are put into piles as they continue to spread the seeds. Even if the plan is to burn the piles, quite often the seeds get spread before the burning process is initiated.

Crosby then expressed his appreciation that most often the Executive Director or a Board member of Greenspace would be on the Board of the Cambria Forest Committee. Karin then stated that due to the recent resignation of former ED Rick Hawley and others, she was overwhelmed with responsibilities, and while she’d continue to attend monthly CFC meetings did not presently have the time to be further involved.

Laura again commented that Fern Canyon and other CCSD properties were briefly addressed at the FSFG meeting, and she wondered if more information could be provided in this area. Spencer remarked that these projects, while not being ignored, were part of the Cambria Forest Management Plan, and he was heavily involved with other projects and therefore unable to presently focus on our local FMP, but perhaps in Fall of this year.

Crosby then asked about Camp Ocean Pines, and were the projects involved there still on the RCD agenda. Spencer said that COP was incorporated into the plan for Rancho Marino. However, an effort would be made to create a shaded fuel break up Randall Rd to Camp Ocean Pines to assist in fire suppression and fuel reduction not just in COP but ultimately in the residential area nearby. It should be noted that this plan is in the very early stages.

Under Future Agenda items, Crosby expressed the hope that Forest Manager Steve Auten would again be available to provide an updated presentation at a Forest Committee meeting.

Greenspace ED Argano then announced the GS Earth Day celebration that will be taking place at the Creekside Reserve on April 22nd. The theme for this year nationwide is, “Invest In Our Planet”. This will be a very educational experience with many vendors, music, and a poster contest involving the youth from the grammar school.

The meeting was then adjourned at 10:37 AM.

The next Cambria Forest Committee meeting will be on Friday, March 10th, at 10AM via Zoom.

This summary written and submitted by CCSD Board member Harry Farmer.

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