After the Caltrans regional director and geotechnical official described the extensive damage and difficulty of repairs at the March 20 press conference at Cranston Ranger Station, Caltrans asked other local and federal officials to speak, especially about the social and community effects of the road closures.
Riverside County Sheriff Lt. Alfonso Campa, of the Hemet Station, added that, because of the increase in response time, two deputies are now stationed on the Hill every day. If there is an emergency, residents can call 911 or the Hemet Station emergency at 951-776-1099.
The next speakers addressed opportunities for visitors and tourists coming to Idyllwild. Andrew Smith, natural resource specialist for the San Jacinto Ranger District, described the trails that are open for walking and hiking. District campgrounds are still expected to open on Memorial Day weekend.
And importantly, he added, “The entirety of the [Pacific Crest Trail] is now open on the district.”
Currently, trails in Garner Valley are accessible. These include the Cedar Springs, Ramona, Fobes and Spitler Peak trails. In the Idyllwild vicinity, the Devil’s Slide, Ernie Maxwell, Deer Springs and South Ridge trails are available and are no longer under the Cranston Closure Order.
“Wildflower bloom is yet to happen, but soon will,” Smith also mentioned.
Next, Leslie Trainor, deputy director in the county’s Economic Development Agency, described their efforts to help the local business. The county set up a website, “TourIdyllwild.com” and a twitter site “@LoveIdyllwild.” Both will keep the public notified of events and happenings on the Hill.
“Idyllwild is open for business. It’s beautiful, peaceful and the air is clean,” Trainor said.
The usual entertainment and recreational events may be supplemented later this summer when the access is less limited, according to Terri Kasinga, the Caltrans media officer for District 8.
“We’ll work with the Small Business Administration to have a benefit concert. We’ll try to have nationally famous artists and many of the local artists perform sometime this summer,” she said.
Riverside County also is concerned about the effects on local workers and employees, especially those whose commute is now significantly longer. They can call the county at 951-304-5422 or email WorkforceDevelopment.Idyllwild@RivCo.Org.
The county is prepared to offer vocational training to help, including finding new work, résumé writing, career coaching and other financial help such as unemployment compensation, including cash to help with utility bills.
The county also will help local nonprofits seek grant funding, Trainor said.
Patrick Keplinger, representing U.S. Representative Dr. Raul Ruiz, acknowledged the catastrophic damage and is working with the community. He can help connect residents and businesses with the federal SBA, who may have low-interest loans to help bridge the period until the highways fully reopen.
Keplinger’s office is in Hemet, and he asked people to call 760-424-8888.
State Sen. Jeff Stone has had Darrell Connerton working on this crisis for several weeks. He has been personally involved in many discussions with Caltrans. He acknowledged the extensive cooperation among the various agencies working to restore normal travel to Idyllwild and especially noted “the personal involvement of [County 3rd District Supervisor] Chuck Washington.”