Save Mt. Diablo worked for decades to help create, expand and then finally open Lime Ridge Open Space to the public. … Unfortunately, the peak of Lime Ridge has been off limits for decades, used for a communications site and surrounded by chain link and barbed wire. With the lease for the site expired, and three dozen rare species identified, this is our opportunity to return the peak to the public which owns it–by not renewing the lease for the communications site—which conflicts with the city’s General Plan for its open spaces in the first place.
Unfortunately the city is contemplating not just renewing the communications tower lease, but expanding it. The city hasn’t done environmental review for the expanded site, and hasn’t done alternatives analysis for other, less sensitive alternatives, such as along Ygnacio Valley Road. We have proposed removing the existing dilapidated equipment, and have even offered to collaborate with the city in using volunteers to remove the old equipment.
Last year, staff from Save Mount Diablo began considering the impacts of proposed telecommunication towers in Lime Ridge Open Space, especially in light of the discovery of two new plant species there. The plants, the Lime Ridge Navarretia (Navarretia gowenii) and the Lime Ridge Woollystar (Eriastrum sp. nov.) have been confirmed as new species. Both are critically and globally endangered. Given their recent discovery, almost nothing is known about the plants, their requirements, or how they might be impacted by various existing and proposed activities within the open space. The City of Walnut Creek has been considering a lease for Sprint-Nextel within the habitat of the plants.
In the absence of environmental review and effective mitigations, Save Mount Diablo is opposed to this contract. … The proposed contract and project violate the City General Plan, they would directly affect the newly discovered plants, and they could have significant other impacts on the environment. They fail to include effective protections for sensitive resources including the newly discovered plants and other significant species, they have not been subject to environmental review, and they ignore our suggestion that alternative locations be assessed.
Save Mount Diablo is the largest environmental organization in Contra Costa County, with decades of professional experience in land use planning and resource management. We are a nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1971. We acquire land for addition to parks on and around Mt. Diablo, monitors land use planning which might affect protected lands, and build trails, restore habitat, and are involved in environmental education.
In 1971, there was just one park on Mount Diablo totaling 6,788 acres; today there are 39 parks and preserves totaling more than 90,000 acres. We have more than 7,000 members and eight professional staff. Save Mount Diablo has worked with many agencies and conservation organizations to preserve open space throughout the area, including in Walnut Creek.
Our founder, Mary Bowerman, was a recognized expert in plants around Mount Diablo. Our first president, Peg Kovar (who later became mayor of Walnut Creek) and other Save Mt. Diablo leaders, as well as the organization itself, helped to lead the fight opposing development in Indian Valley (Shell Ridge Open Space) and to create the Walnut Creek Open Space system.
Our board of directors and Land Committee include highly qualified biological and botanical experts and land use attorneys. Our staff is expert in these areas as well, including in land use planning and environmental review. We have been intimately involved with preservation at Lime Ridge, as well as defense of its borders from every subsequent development project. …
We also own the 208-acre Mangini property adjacent to Lime Ridge Open Space, not far from the project site, and have conducted substantial professional analysis of the property and of the Open Space’s resources.
We are interested in maintaining the natural integrity of Lime Ridge. … We have also been involved in communication tower issues since the mid-1970s. Save Mt. Diablo helped create Contra Costa County’s first telecommunication towers ordinance and helped amend its subsequent versions. These efforts slowed and then stopped the construction of towers in Mt. Diablo State Park. … While we are not necessarily opposed to tower facilities, their location and mitigation is very important. … Our single most important recommendations regarding the newly discovered plants at Lime Ridge were a “go slow” and a “do no harm” approach to anything which might affect them, until more information could be gathered about their needs.
For all these reasons, we are opposed to creation of a new communications tower lease at the peak of Lime Ridge or for expanded facilities there.
It’s time to return the peak to the public.