Saving a stunning 120-acre piece of open space in the city of Redlands is important, but the activists have too big a challenge to succeed the way they're doing it.
Raising enough in donations before a developer buys the already-approved-for-development land appears untenable.
The current owner wants more than $9 million. Save Live Oak Canyon has raised about $3,000. The property appraises around $4 million.
Time could run out any day.
A new strategy is in order.
The parcel includes sprawling and rolling acreage that has historical and scenic significance, in addition to sacred and practical value.
It must not be bulldozed.
With live oak woodlands, chaparral, interior sage scrub and lots of nooks and crannies, it’s part of a wildlife habitat and corridor for foxes, coyotes, birds, mountain lions, deer, reptiles, insects and other vital members of our local ecosystem.
It was tribal land once, and a Native American geoglyph -- now depicted in tribute on the side of Interstate 10 was there, evidenced in an aerial photograph taken in 1938.
Like other geoglyph sites, the one in Live Oak Canyon is a solar observatory that marks seasonal changes. At summer solstice the sun rises right in the notch between San Bernardino Peak and Mt. San Gorgonio. At winter solstice it rises right behind the peak of Mt. San Jacinto. That’s what made this spot sacred to native peoples and to this day it’s a magical event for anyone who goes there to watch a solstice sunrise.
Redlands is steeped in the history of its white founders, but we’ve neglected and sometimes actively demolished our rich Native American sites and artifacts. The Redlands geoglyph was bulldozed sometime in the 1940s. Right now the geoglyph site is where a house pad sits on the development map.
It’s the only place in the Inland Empire where you can gaze out over a 180-degree vista as far as the eye can see, from Mt. San Gorgonio to Mt. San Jacinto to the Badlands, and see only natural open space.
It has cycling, running, hiking and horseback riding trails unparalleled in our region, that connect with the regional trail system to San Timoteo Canyon, Crafton Hills and the rest of Redlands. And it’s only five minutes from downtown!
According to the Redlands Conservancy, this kind of recreational opportunity attracts educated, professional residents to settle in a community.
Furthermore, open space is considered the “ultimate tax cap.” Protected open space can help keep property taxes from going up because increased development leads to increased demand for government services. Preserved open space will never produce homes, schools, roads and other costly infrastructure and public services that will significantly increase our taxes in the future.
The qualities of this land improve the quality of life for all of us.
It is such important land, that even if a developer buys it, 80 percent is mandated preserved as open space, and it’s adjacent to large land holdings that have already been preserved as open space, thanks to the diligent efforts of the Redlands Conservancy, the City of Redlands and generous local benefactors.
But putting a community of large homes on 20 percent disrupts the entire canyon.
The development would cut off animal migration and plant dispersal between Live Oak Canyon and Crafton Hills, obstruct the views of homeowners rimming the canyon, destroy historical resources and erode the tranquility of the canyon.
Once this site is altered, it can’t be restored to how it is now. We can not unring a bell.
Despite their passion and good intentions, the residents trying to raise enough money to buy the property outright don’t have the experience or the connections to make it happen. Their time and energy are better spent coming up with an alternative way to preserve the land, and we urge the residents of Redlands to join them.
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