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SMMC Executive Director: 'We're as Committed Against Fire as They Are'

Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, responds to resident concerns about overnight camping in Malibu.

Plans for overnight camping in Malibu already include provisions to reduce fire danger, a Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy official said Tuesday.

"We’re saying no camping between Sept. 15 and Jan. 15," said Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) in response to concerns from Malibu residents over his proposals for overnight camping in Ramirez Canyon and Charmlee Wilderness Park.

Edmiston explained that the blackout dates coincide with fire season in the Santa Monica Mountains. He said campers will not be allowed to have open flames, only propane stoves.

"I think if people sit back and take a rational look at it, there is camping in Malibu, it’s just private expensive camping. At Malibu Beach RV Park they have open flame, they have those charcoal burners right up against the chaparral. Nobody mentions that," Edmiston said.

He encouraged Malibu residents concerned about fire danger to take a complete look at his plans.  

"We’re going to have supervised camping and there’s camping at Leo Carrillo and at Malibu Creek State Park, and we’re just expanding those camping opportunities. If they can take a look at it, they can understand that we’re just as committed against fire as they are," Edmiston said.

Edmiston also said that any plans for camping in other parts of Malibu, including Corral Canyon, are years off, but that an application for camping at Bluff's Park is ready to be submitted to the Coastal Commission.

He said he has agreed to hold off on submitting the application while the city of Malibu considers a proposed land swap and settlement of a lawsuit over uses in Ramirez Canyon.

Under the proposed swap, the city would gain ownership of Bluff's Park in exchange for SMMC control over Charmlee.

Last week, the Malibu City Council voted to move forward and explore the land swap proposal, but outside of Edmiston's preferred end of January deadline. Instead, the council asked City Manager Jim Thorsen to prepare an analysis of Bluff's Park to make sure that the space can fit the needs of several athletic fields and a skate park.

Edmiston said he agreed to the extended deadline, but that he expects a decision from the Malibu City Council sooner rather than later.

"It’s fine for due diligence. This issue has been debated pretty thoroughly within Malibu. We’re just not interested in something that just drags out and drags out. Otherwise, we do have a proposal ready to go ahead for camping on the Bluffs," Edmiston said.

"I don’t want somebody to say, well, we’ll drag this thing out and then a year from now, they turn it down and meanwhile we could have been going ahead with our application to the Coastal Commission. We have an application ready for the camping on the Bluffs. … We’ll hold off for a month and see what you guys are going to do. There is no hard and fast deadline. Things are moving forward."

The proposed deal has been received with both praise and criticism within Malibu. Some parents have voiced support over the possibility of more athletic fields for Malibu's youth. Other residents, many of whom have lived through Malibu's devastating wildfires, are wary of Edmiston's plans to bring additional camping to western Malibu and other fire prone areas.

The group Preserve Malibu has set up a community meeting to find a new place for athletic fields in Malibu and to discuss residents' concerns. The meeting is set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Point Dume Clubhouse.

In addition, a petition started by the Corral Canyon Fire Safety Alliance to ban overnight camping in Malibu has garnered more than 600 signatures.

Lori Jacobus January 27, 2013 at 05:15 AM
You are so right! Sign the e-petition to ban camping and share it with everyone you know. http://www.change.org/petitions/the-city-of-malibu-and-the-santa-monica-mountains-conservancy-ban-overnight-camping-in-malibu-s-corral-canyon-and-high-risk-fire-areas
Lori Jacobus January 27, 2013 at 05:15 AM
Yep - I saw him do it the last time this came up. This is not a NIMBY thing at all. It is about public safety - period.
Hans Laetz February 01, 2013 at 06:18 PM
I hiked the MRCA Bluffs Park yesterday, and must respectfully disagree with Jiohn Mazza's assessment. John says "At that location we estimated the Bluffs Park property was approximately 25 to 30 feet above the highway and a great deal of grading would have to be done to connect to PCH." Please look at the picture I uploaded. 15 feet is far more accurate. There are several places where a driveway would be level with PCH, and the median is plenty wide enough for a turn lane to be added. The center median is not a state historic structure. John says Bluffs West would be "very hard if not impossible to develop"? That is some of the flattest land in Malibu. It used to be planted with lima beans, back in the old Rindge days. He is right that more than 1/3 is very steep. I'd say 2/3s. The existing flat area could easily accomodate fields -- WITH A MINIMUM OF GRADING - that would be more than double the size of existing Legacy Park, and that would leave 80 acres of canyons and cliffs untouched. "The two areas for fields could not be connected by a road since a deep canyon separates them" is not accurate either. They are connected by a road called Highway 1. The fields could easily be connected over Marie Canyon with a footpath and bridge.
Hans Laetz February 01, 2013 at 06:20 PM
Picture won't upload. It shows that a small mound of dirt sits opposite John Tyler, with a surface level equal to the overhead traffic light. That's about 16 feet, and a driveway could be put there with less grading than most PCH residential driveways.
Hans Laetz February 01, 2013 at 06:29 PM
One other VERY important item. There is a proposal to allow 5 houses on what used to be called the Crummer property, on the bluffs surrounding the Bluffs park fields. These are those atrocious story poles overlooking PCH and the Civic Center, above Ralph's. What a disaster. This plan calls for shoehorning in a baseball field surrounded by five houses. The field would go where the street and cul de sac are now -- eliminating about 20 parking places at a park that is already crammed full with cars on weekends and after school. These houses would be so close to the field as to make it look like an inner city park. I've seen baseball fields with similar setbacks in Culver City, Santas Monica, Oxnard. The houses would transform the openness of Bluffs Park into a suburban city neighborhood. Awful. The proposed subdivision deal on the east end of Bluffs Park will ruin that city asset. Just ruin it. I will post the plat map.

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