Not all is peace and harmony at the Douglas Family Preserve these days. An ad hoc group calling itself the Citizens to Preserve the Douglas Preserve is hopping mad about a proposed project at the site that would include the development of an Americans with Disabilities Act–compliant trail of decomposed granite, removal of more than 500 cubic yards of crumbling asphalt, and the elimination of a number of user-created trails that have developed over the years.
The project has the approval of both the City Council, which approved Parks and Recreation’s application in August for a $300,000 state grant, and the Architectural Board of Review, which voted to endorse the plan in late October.
The citizens’ group has complained that characterizing the project as restoration, rather than new trail design and development, allows the city to bypass California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and Coastal Commission review. In an open letter sent out by Nancy Ferguson, a spokesperson for the effort to stop the project, she noted, “Oversight of projects like this are why we have CEQA and Coastal Commission protections. To bypass these would be a disservice to the people, the Preserve, and to the City.”
Not so, says Acting Parks and Recreation Director Jill Zachary. “Most of the improvements come directly from the Douglas Family Preserve Management Plan, which was finalized in 2008 and includes mitigation measures required by the EIR [environmental impact report] and conditions developed by the City Council.” Zachary added that the potential state grant would provide an opportunity to make improvements at the Preserve that otherwise might not occur. “Most of the proposals are already in our capital improvement program, but we havenever been able to find the funding for them,” she added.
Zachary also noted that despite the public opposition, there has been quite a bit of community support for the changes. A major sticking point, however, may be working out the ADA compliance, which is one of the requirements for receiving the grant. In an email sent out late Monday, Zachary agreed to put the project on hold, noting because of the “extensive public discussion about the project, including the requests to address all three entrances (Medcliff, Mesa School Lane, and Borton), concern about parking impacts, and other issues, we have determined the need to complete a more comprehensive assessment of trail access and accessibility requirements for the park.”