During the Chamber of Commerce’s meeting, Sharon Cassen presented a slide show about the natural beauty and benefits of a park on the proposed Community Center site. Photos by J.P. Crumrine
Without fanfare and publicists, the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce has been gradually rebuilding and rejuvenating itself. The growth in membership is only the superficial manifestation of this change. The actions at this week’s meeting also demonstrated the Chamber’s revival.

People are coming to the Chamber with ideas and requests and the participation needed to implement them. Speakers at the Monday meeting came from the town as well as off the Hill.

Carol Salazar, representing Backcountry 4x4, offered an off-road recreational trail map. She indicated that Jeep and Toyota dealers were already supporting the idea, so Idyllwild businesses could participate without worry that they had to support the effort.

“We provide maps indicating the difficulty of the forest trails,” she stated. The San Jacinto District has one blue diamond trail, which would be attractive to trail riders throughout Southern California, she said.

Backcountry 4x4 plans a tour of local trails next month. Salazar asked the Chamber membership to ride along and view the local pathways. They have been working with the Forest Service to develop off-road trail maps for many Southern California areas. Maps for Big Bear are already available and 10 more are planned, including for the San Jacinto area.

“We’re providing an educational tool,” Salazar stressed during her presentation. “If we can educate the public to stay on trails, we won’t lose the trail system.”

The Hill’s beauty and magnetism for tourism was also the point that Norman and Sharon Cassen, stressed to the Chamber board. Speaking before Salazar, they asked the board to consider the alpine environs in which we live as our native and unique resource.

Carol Salazar, of 4x4 Backcountry, shows the Chamber directors the Big Bear off-road trail map and discussed how Idyllwild businesses could be part of a San Jacinto off-road map.
They discussed the advantages of maintaining the forest scenery along Strawberry Creek, rather than construction of a community center. They made arguments for the prosperity that a park setting would bring to the business community, rather than a community center on the proposed site along Ridgeview Drive and Highway 243.

“What other California city has this opportunity?” Sharon asked the board. “No other place I know of has old-growth forest downtown. That’s our jewel. People come to visit our nature, not our buildings.”

The Cassens didn’t ask the Chamber to take a position on the proposed community center, but they asked for a future opportunity to present a specific plan.

Brent Miller tells the Chamber about the demise of the Idyllwild Business Roundtable and its future partnership with the Chamber.
“I don’t know what we can do, but we’re willing to listen,” replied Chamber President Nick Todd.

The final speaker was Brent Miller, representing the Idyllwild Business Roundtable (IBRT). He is bringing bodies to the Chamber. Although, with sadness, he announced that the IBRT had found it necessary to cease its independent activities, Todd and others felt the Chamber could offer the group a safe harbor.

To his colleagues, Todd proposed that they establish a Visitors and Tourism committee. Director Mike Lackey would chair the group whose nucleus would be the former IBRT members. The board had no disagreement with Todd’s suggestion and unanimously adopted it.

“The Roundtable is a great group and I wouldn’t like to lose them,” Lackey said.

The Chamber and IBRT have been working together. The recent Town Jazz concert featuring Marshall Hawkins is the most recent example of their collaboration. Chamber Treasurer Kim Mueller reported that the concert raised more than $4,500, of which $500 went to Hawkins for his plans to bring jazz to elementary schools.

In other business, off-road maps were not the only maps discussed at the meeting. Grace Reed, Town Crier publisher, discussed the conversations she and Todd have had about using the Chamber’s kiosk map for business promotion and distribution to town visitors as a handout.

As membership has grown in the past year and as the Chamber has become more active, its finances are improving, too. Mueller reported that the organization now has more than $7,000 in its treasury (over $2,600 in its checking and over $4,500 in the Harmony Monument maintenance account.)