Water board votes in favor
of Lazy River project
by Kelly Feser Eells
Having been at the center of many an "upstream"
battle, the alternative swimming facility proposed for the recreation
area at Lake Casitas has earned the right to relax - or to at
least become a Lazy River.
At its Sept. 11 meeting, Casitas Municipal Water District's board
of directors voted unanimously in favor of the project, "finding
no significant environmental impact," adopting a formal
resolution (negative declaration of environmental impact report)
to that effect, and authorizing General Manager John Johnson
"to release the project for bid."
The board also thanked "all the community members who had
come forward in favor" of the project, several of whom were
in the audience. "It's a pleasure seeing so much effort
being made by the community," said board director Jim Coultas,
"on the project's behalf; so much positive input. I always
suspected the negative input would be small."
While there was no negative input at Wednesday's
meeting, the project had been stymied by charges that it would
increase traffic; compromise bio-resources; was poorly planned
- complaints lodged, primarily, by the Audubon Society.
"The Audubon's position," said Johnson, "was that
this facility would greatly increase traffic. We responded by
looking at the existing water playground (Blue Heron), and saw
that the number of annual visitors, 750,000 to 800,000 per year,
had remained fairly constant.
"There's more evidence that weather affects visitor activity,"
Johnson added, indicating that enhancing existing recreational
opportunities would not translate to more cars but to more enjoyable
stays. "In addition, the hours of operation aren't peak
traffic hours." He explained that the water playground opens
after most people have left for their morning commute, and closes
after most have returned home.
"Their next issue was the viewshed," said Johnson.
"We pointed out that most of this project is underground.
Lights, perhaps a bridge or two, and landscaping is all that's
above ground. As for lights, another concern, the lake already
and always has had lights - the recreation area, RV area, maintenance
areas. It, the lake, isn't the 'dark' area they say it is."
Johnson further noted that, "as for the 'sensitive habitat'
issue, well, there is no insensitive (recreational activity)
in this one- to one-and-a-half acre area. And no agency, county,
state, or otherwise, has identified any sensitive bio-resources"
in this area. There was also a concern about land use,"
added Johnson, "but this is an area that has been operated
as recreational for more than 40 years. We've, basically, reconstructed
existing facilities all to the betterment" of the property,
he said, citing examples like the installation of hookups that
"reduce gas consumption" and RV pads, "which have
kept the dirt from flying," etc.
Riverside Street resident Sharon Troll said, "I applaud
you for being so patient with this" project and its dissenters.
"I'm employed by the Boys and Girls Club of Ventura and,
while I'm very passionate about our natural resources and wildlife,
I'm even more passionate about children."
Ojai resident Bea Foley asked the board's permission to "submit
all these signatures I've collected" in support of the project.
"Over 500, which I collected within two days, and an additional
50 I collected today. And there would be even more, I'm sure,
if I had more time," she chuckled, adding that she has long
been in favor of the project.
"I first heard about it when I went to make a reservation
for a party for my grandkids (at Blue Heron) and couldn't get
in. And I agree with Mrs. Troll that, we're not going to be able
to teach our children how to respect the environment without
giving them adequate opportunity to learn how."
Miss Teen Oak View, Elizabeth Tousignant, agreed. "I'm all
for it. Growing up in Oak View, well, there wasn't much to do
(for me). But my little brothers and sisters love having a water
playground, and this project would be a great addition"
for all ages.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
Back to the news