By Marsha Kennedy
Idyllwild Snow Group
During the 2016-2017 winter, the behavior of many snow-play visitors was appalling. Pine Cove, Fern Valley and Idyllwild were defenseless against the hundreds who flocked here. They were here for a day of playing in the snow. We had no guidance for them, and they simply created their own play wherever they were. Safety issues abounded because of it.
In response to my letter to Becky Clark and her call for volunteers, a group of strangers met Feb. 3, 2017, to address the snow-play visitor issues. We were the proverbial babes in the woods with our only common ground being our firsthand experience of the situation. It was the beginning of the Idyllwild Snow Group.
Initially we reached out to leaders of local nonprofits to determine community response potential. Next, we personally interviewed a third of our businesses regarding snow-play visitors. For the overwhelming majority, their experiences were negative.
After determining the local situation, we set up meetings with county, state and federal officials, where we presented Idyllwild’s problems and suggested possible solutions. These meetings have been highly encouraging, and the responses have been thoughtful and positive. California Sen. Jeff Stone and our district representative Darrell Connerton have been extremely helpful with advice and as liaison with various agencies. Only this last week, Connerton received agreement for CalTrans to plow the largest turnouts on Highway 243 south of Lake Fulmor. This action will provide snow opportunities for numerous cars before they reach our congested roads.
Riverside County Transportation Department has installed new Humber Park Trailhead signs to replace the old ones that promised a year ’round park and parking lot. A “Closed” flip-down sign has been added for use when roads in Humber are dangerous and it is closed to vehicles.
On Fern Valley Road, from Encino Road to Humber, new signs voted on by residents say “No Parking Weekends and Holidays Dec.-April.”
“No Stopping” signs now flank the road starting at Humber’s entrance. More signs have been posted regarding not blocking snowplows and the requirement for chains.
We identified four existing snow-play areas: County Park and Open Space has added McCall Park in Mountain Center to the list. We’re working with Mt. San Jacinto State Park to open a sixth. Thanks to Rotary, we will be posting a map of these snow-play sites in the map case beside the town monument. Come winter, hopefully the good weather visitors who see the snow-play site map will remember that some exist.
We had signs made for private property owners to discourage illegal parking and trespassing.
We have a commitment from Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. Leonard Purvis to send all possible personnel to Idyllwild on snow-play days.
CHP San Gorgonio Station’s Capt. Keri Clark is supportive but has no funds for more officers or hours. Since undesirable behavior usually continues until corrected, we need to find a resource for overtime pay for the added officers we need on snow-play days.
Refrigerator magnets were distributed free at the post office to make it easy for individuals to alert the sheriff and CHP of any illegal activity. Increased reporting contributes to future assessment of law-enforcement needs on the Hill.
And, there is more yet to do. Our area needs signs that point to the six snow-play areas. Franklin Road and Upper Pine Crest need signs to help deter illegal parking. Lake Fulmor could provide an attractive parking and play space if it were open during snowy weekends. CalTrans’ scrolling electronic signs on incoming highways could warn people of unsafe conditions before they head up the mountain.
Our efforts will require time to reach optimal results. It’s largely a matter of education. For example, numerous drivers need to receive tickets for illegal parking before the word gets around on social media that you cannot park just anywhere in Idyllwild.
However, with a year to look back on, we have to say that Margaret Mead was right when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Locals on Facebook can find us at Idyllwild Snow for Locals. Idyllwild visitors can find us at Idyllwildsnow.com and at Facebook’s Idyllwild Snow.