Craig Ogata’s mission as San Joaquin County’s Parks and Recreation director is to find people to remove some dry brush in the Woodbridge Wilderness Area, preferably at no cost to county taxpayers.
All five members of the Board of Supervisors agree that the wilderness area is a major fire hazard that needs immediate attention, but these are the same five supervisors who voted two weeks ago to not spend $50,000 to clear up the brush, which backs up to several homes in the River Meadows and Del Rio subdivisions in Woodbridge.
“This is a no-brainer,” board chairman Carlos Villapudua said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “We need to address the fire danger right away. Let’s get a group out there and get it done.”
A California Conservation Corps worker, after reading a News-Sentinel story on the wilderness area that was published Saturday, sent an e-mail to the News-Sentinel, saying that the CCC specializes in weed removal projects and would be glad to help the county.
The Board of Supervisors discussed the fire hazard at the wilderness area, a 17-acre tree-lined area along the south bank of the Mokelumne River, at Tuesday’s board meeting.
The discussion came as the board accepted long-term recommendations ranging from fire safety to several activities prohibited in the wilderness area, trail widening and hours it is open.
The wilderness area has been closed since a devastating fire in September 2008 that threatened several homes. The area will be closed to the public for the 2010-11 fiscal year because the county cannot afford to maintain it.
Supervisors discussed acquiring goats to eat up the brush starting next spring, when the brush is more damp than it is now.
Tasso Kandris, a long-time member of the Woodbridge Municipal Advisory Council, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the wilderness area should be open to the public whenever possible.
“This has been an ongoing battle,” Kandris said. “There is a fire danger, whether it is open or closed. If the community can’t enjoy the area, the county should divest itself of the property.”
Acampo resident Mary Fuhs, a county Parks and Recreation Commissioner who once lived in Woodbridge, called the wilderness area “a little piece of paradise.”
The area should be locked up as long as the county needs to address the fire danger, but it should otherwise be open, Fuhs said.
Christian Phillips, who lives near the wilderness area, said that it would be all right for the county to sell the property as long as it can be maintained by whoever acquires it.
“I think private ownership is feasible,” Phillips said.
In other action Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors adopted long-term recommendations by a citizens committee who investigated future use of the wilderness area. The recommendations are not going into effect because they would require a one-time cost of $100,000, plus $9,500 in annual maintenance costs.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.