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Push to Ban Smokes on Trails

By Tom Osborne
By Tom Osborne

We need to get their butts out of there. The “butts” are cigarette refuse and “there” refers to the dry, flammable chaparral atop Aliso Peak and inland near the trail approaching Laguna Sur in Laguna Niguel. Those of us edgy about wild fires along our hillsides have a good reason to express our concerns to officials and work with neighbors and others to address this public safety problem.

My wife and I hike up the Valido Trail and into the Laguna Sur/Badlands area regularly once a week and have been monitoring it for tobacco remnants and trash. Near one picnic table at the latter site three weeks ago we photographed and picked up approximately 40 cigarette butts plus beer cans and cardboard packaging for this beverage tossed into the dry bushes. On the ground abutting the arid foliage a few feet from the picnic table we saw and photographed countless butts. The litterers are male and female adolescents who gather at the site often around dusk. They frequently trash the area. A fire started there could easily threaten south Laguna’s hillsides and homes. The week previous to the hike just mentioned I had come across a sleeping bag slung over the railing near the picnic table, so some illegal overnighting has been taking place. What to do?

The South Laguna Civic Association, on whose board I sit, established a fire danger trail committee a little more than a month ago. Since then we’ve engaged in a flurry of activity. We contacted the Orange County Sheriff station in Laguna Niguel and asked that an officer visit the problem county trail near Laguna Sur so that the adolescents could see a police presence occasionally. We were told that officers were needed elsewhere and that Orange County Parks had responsibility for dealing with our problem. Disappointed, we turned to the parks office at Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park. That office sent out a ranger with whom I met at the Laguna Sur site and I walked her through the problem area. She expressed concern and said that she would see to the removal of the picnic table at the problem site so as to discourage loiterers from spending too much time there. Since the decomposed granite trail leading to the problem site is not named on any signage, I asked the ranger to name the trail so that we don’t have to spend at least 20 minutes with every official we talk to simply trying to explain where this problem area is located. Now the Parks Department is looking into that suggestion.

Others on our committee have contacted Orange County 5th District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett’s office and had a productive meeting in Santa Ana with her liaison to the Parks Department. We went through the usual 20 minutes trying to show him the location of the unnamed trail. He used GPS and other satellite tracking technologies and was able to pinpoint the problem area. Satisfied as to location, he agreed to contact and work with the Aliso and Wood Canyon Regional Park officials to address the fire and trash problem.

We are working with Capo Cares, Laguna Sur Homeowners Association, and other civic groups committed to banning smoking at OC parks and beaches. Gov. Jerry Brown could help us by signing a bill before him that would outlaw smoking at 270 state parks in California.

Our committee will meet with Supervisor Bartlett later this month to move forward our requests to name the trail referenced above so that all parties will know precisely where it is located; help us obtain No Smoking/Fire Hazard signs in county-maintained open space areas and especially trail heads; and facilitate a smoking ban on Laguna’s county beaches.

If readers know of other trails in Laguna Beach (along Sunset in south Laguna is a prime example) in need of signage warning against the smoking/fire danger, please contact City Hall and request such postings. We all have a role to play.

Stay tuned.

 

Tom Osborne writes on coastal environmental issues.

 

 

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