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Additional lighting, turnstile entrance coming to Woodbridge Wilderness Area

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Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2005 10:00 pm

The entrance to the Woodbridge Wilderness Area will soon have several features added to discourage unsavory activity in the wooded area near the Mokelumne River.

Formerly called Woodbridge Regional Park, the entrance on River Meadows Drive will include more street lighting, signs specifying permitted activities, a turnstile to prevent bicycles and other items from entering the wilderness area and some thorny bushes to deter people from going onto private property.

San Joaquin County Supervisor Jack Sieglock pledged to make the improvements after hearing concerns from about 40 people who attended a workshop Tuesday at the Lodi Elks Lodge on Lower Sacramento Road.

Sieglock called the meeting after hearing heated concerns for more than two years. Residents from the upscale River Meadows subdivision have objected to teenagers and young adults partying, consuming alcohol and drugs, blocking driveways, throwing trash onto the street and front yards, and using foul language during the summer.

Residents raised concerns in the summer of 2002 about unsavory activity by teens and other young people in River Meadows, where the main entrance is located. Sieglock said that he, two Municipal Advisory Council members, county Parks and Recreation Director Dave Beadles, county Facilities Director Craig Ogata, Sheriff's Lt. Bruce Wuest and Woodbridge Fire Chief Michael Kirkle toured the wilderness area within the last two weeks to prepare for Tuesday's community workshop.

One of the problems residents and firefighters have encountered in recent years is the tendency for people to bring in barbecue grills, which can start fires in the isolated, densely wooded area. The turnstile, similar to ones used at the Lodi Grape Festival and Micke Grove Zoo, will prevent barbecue grills, bicycles and motorcycles from being brought into the area, Sieglock said.

The Sheriff's Department will patrol on bicycle on selected weekends and holidays like it did last summer, he added. In an effort to emphasize that Woodbridge Regional Park is not a true "park" with picnic tables, benches and playground equipment, the county Board of Supervisors voted in November to change the name to Woodbridge Wilderness Area, a 17-acre rural area with trees and hiking trails near the banks of the Mokelumne River.

"It went very well," Woodbridge Municipal Advisory Council member Ron Rader said of the workshop. "(Sieglock) got some good suggestions from those attending."

The council will discuss forming a "wilderness society," similar to a wilderness Neighborhood Watch group, to watch over the area. The next MAC meeting will be on April 28. Sieglock said that he and Woodbridge residents will continue discussing whether to have a caretaker stay in a mobile home during the summer months. Residents Tuesday were divided on that issue.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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