Thursday, January 17, 2008

Foster Park Residents, County Disagree

Mike Montano looks over the splendid views from his Foster Park home.

By Daryl Kelley
When Mike Montano looks down from his hilltop home at the mouth of the Ojai Valley, the 44-year-old photographer sees a tranquil, wooded setting —the Ventura River Valley on one side and Coyote Creek on the other.
“It was the first house we would ever own and it was fantastic,” said Montano, whose move from New York City in 2002 ended at Foster Park, a cluster of about 80 homes hidden amid towering oak and sycamore trees. “We loved the privacy and the quietness.”
But now, Montano said he and his wife, Tanya Smith-Montano, and their 10-year-old daughter fear the peaceful life into which they invested their savings may be threatened. And not by a rogue developer, but by the county of Ventura.
The County Parks Department is chopping down trees and leveling hillside pads for 11 recreational vehicle sites just across the creek from Montano’s property at the Red Mountain Campground.
Montano and his neighbors think the change could alter the natural flow of life in their community, where deer are regular visitors and bears wander in from time to time. And where it’s so quiet residents can hear the screech of an animal’s kill from the surrounding woods.
That’s why, in concerned telephone calls and e-mails to county officials this week, several Foster Park residents have asked how the county can so alter the natural park benefactor E.P. Foster deeded for recreational use in 1920. And how the county could do it without a word to those who live nearby.
“This whole thing is being pushed because the county wants to make a few more dollars,” said Montano. “And they’re doing it on my back without notifying us or asking about the impact.”
Ron Van Dyck, who manages county parks, said Foster Park residents have it wrong; that the county just wants to make enough money to cover just wants to make enough money to cover maintenance of the refurbished recreational vehicle park, while providing county residents a more rustic alternative as a getaway.
The county was not required to notify anyone of camp improvements, Van Dyck said, because camping was already permitted at 17 existing primitive campsites, which had been closed years ago for lack of money to maintain them or to hire someone to supervise the camp 24 hours a day.
Now, with $212,000 in improvements approved by the Board of Supervisors last month, the refurbished camp will provide 10 recreational vehicle sites and a site for a full-time camp host, along with modern rest rooms completed with the first phase of the campground restoration. The total cost, paid by a 2002 state parks bond, will be about $500,000, Van Dyck said.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for years, but just didn’t have the money,” he said. “In hind-sight you could probably say we should have told (neighbors) we were going to do it, but it wasn’t like we were trying to hide something.”
The improvements were ratified over a period of years, he said, at the County Parks Advisory Commission. And there was a newspaper article about the improvements last year.
“Our goal has always been to open the park back up,” he said. “It does give county residents a greater variety of areas they can visit. It’s more rustic, more secluded.”
Nor does Van Dyck think the refurbished camp will be a noisy neighbor.
“Our typical RV camper is retired,” he said. “They’re very quiet.”
And if the Red Mountain camp does draw noisy visitors, the camp host will quiet them down, he said. “Quiet hours” will be enforced between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., he said.
Nor will campers run noisy generators for power, a common problem with campgrounds, because the refurbished campground will have electricity at every site paid for as part of the camping fee.
“They’ll be plugged into power, like it was a hotel room,” Van Dyck said.
But some Foster Park residents are not assuaged.
One recent morning residents Doug Parent and Tom Malone gathered near the Coyote Creek Bridge to point out the proximity of the campground to their homes.
“It’s about 300 feet,” said Parent, 40, who runs a Santa Barbara communications business. “This campground hasn’t been used for 30 years, and now they’re going to change our way of life.”
Malone added: “In the night you can hear a mountain lion catch a deer over there. It’s dead quiet. All that will be drowned out now.”
“To be in the center of nature,” said Parent, a resident for nine years. “That’s why we moved here.”
Malone, 46, a real estate appraiser, said he is most concerned that the county is ignoring restrictions Ventura businessman and banker E.P. Foster must have placed on the Foster Park property when he deeded the 300 acres of mountain and valley woodlands to the county in honor of his son, who died at age 7.
“I think Mr. Foster would turn over in his grave if he knew that the 300 acres that he gave as a memorial for a child that he loved so dearly was being turned into a cash cow for Ventura County bureaucrats,” Malone said.
But Van Dyck said the county has carefully followed restrictions on the Foster gift. He said a proposal to allow an outside concessionaire to run the park was rejected for that reason.
“There was an issue of having a lease operator come in,” he said. “And we found that could not happen for that reason. But that was the only (restriction) we found in the deed.”
“Our goal here is not to make money,” the parks chief said. “It’s just to make the cost of maintenance and to open the park back up to the public.”
On Dec. 11, the Board of Supervisors awarded a $212,000 contract to Roydan Contracting of Camarillo for the second phase of improvements to Foster Park. The contract will provide for a new entryway, road repaving, and landscaping with native plants in the day use area, while the Red Mountain Campground will get new tables, grills, repaving, and camp site improvements.
The project is the second phase of $498,000 of improvements to Foster Park funded primarily with 2002 Proposition 12 state bond measure grant funds. The first phase improvements included restoration of the historic stone lions at the entry and Foster Memorial, trailhead improve-ments, and new rest rooms.
County Supervisor Steve Bennett said at the time of approval: “These improvements will restore the luster to this park for many years to come. This investment will enhance the public’s enjoyment of the Foster family’s donation to the community and is a great complement to our other park improvements around the valley.”

15 comments:

RV Lover said...

Quit your wining the park was there first. Did you honestly think we as tax payers were never going to use it?

Anonymous said...

go back to new york. crybaby

Anonymous said...

If you were a life long local, I would have sympathy, but since you're just a rich jerk from New York, I am glad.

Anonymous said...

What a mean-spirited bunch of hateful bunch of clods.

Perhaps someday your neighborhood will become a destination for hateful, rude, cruel, elitist people such as yourselves. One can only hope so.

If people like you are the people the Foster Park residents fear, then all I can say is that they have every right to fear and dislike you. If the attitude you express here is indicative of the way you would behave if you were staying at the campgrounds, you would be neighbors that not even the drunks at Hobo Junction would tolerate, and you would be some of the first people to be escorted out of the campground by Sheriff's Deputies and banned forever by the Campground Host.

Anonymous said...

The only ones that are elitists are the rich, yuppy photographers from out of state. GO HOME!

Do they remember when Foster Park was a town taken over by the 33 freeway? Of course not, so quit your whining about a couple of campsites!! When they take your house, then you can complain!

Anonymous said...

It's called Hobo Jungle, not Hob Junction

Anonymous said...

"What a mean-spirited bunch of hateful bunch of clods." That's right and we are proud of it.

"you would be neighbors that not even the drunks at Hobo Junction would tolerate", Do you think we would allow them to hang with us. We would have them banned so we can park our diesel pushers. You must be from out of town also.

Anonymous said...

You all OUGHT to be from out of town. Far out of town. Forever.

Anonymous said...

GO HOME!

Or else what?

Anonymous said...

I can see why the neighbors are unhappy about this, but in all fairness, the park has been there for a very long time. Anyone who moves in next to it should not be too surprised to see it made so that it can be useful. It kind of reminds me of people who move next to LAX and then complain about the noise. You folks bought the land you live on, not what is across the street from you. I do not particulary care for the remodel done on the house next door to me, but it is legal and there is not a damn thing I can do about it. At least this project is not going to block your view of the ocean, or the mountains. Be good neighbors and respect the fact the other people have the right to enjoy your neighborhood. Maybe you should have done a little bit of investigating before you bought.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it nice when people leave intelligent, thought-out comments like the one before this instead of smart-ass ones?

Anonymous said...

Since you're a photographer, why don't you take a picture of what it looked like so that you can reflect on it when the campers are there. It will last longer. Buck up, yankee.

James Hatch said...

A guy from New York City concerned a couple of retired motorhomers will upset his tranquility? I thought living in New York City gave you thick skin? Must be the cheese in California that is making you soft.

Anonymous said...

I would love to have some happy RVers with curfews living next to me. The house next to me has been a rental for over 20 years. What a nightmare. From it being inhabited by 26, yes 26, people from the third world country to our south who used the front yard as an outdoor toilet, to a bunch of red-neck drunks who sat in their driveway drinking all night which led to them getting so drunk they actually called the cops on themselves, jeez. Oh, I forgot the group who were newspaper carriers for a daily newspaper whose house was the central drop off point for all of the carriers in the valley. The diesel truck would back up in the driveway 20 feet from my bedroom window at 2 am and drop off papers and then all of the area carriers would come and get their papers and stand out there and fold them and carry on until about 4 am. The landlady tried to get us to cease calling the cops and the county on
her tenants by filing a restraining order on US! Can you imagine! Joke was on her. Cost her a bundle of money in attorney fees and was useless as it only covered her, and not her tenants.

Anonymous said...

The Chumash probably wish we'd all go away, and I'm sure they get a laugh reading comments from all the white "Old Timers".

Anonymous at 10:00 a.m: I feel for you. I had people cooking crank next door to me for years, and couldn't get anybody to do anything about it. That might seem to be hard to believe, but it's true.