The Hills of Riverside

Box Springs Mountain Reserve from the University Neighborhood's Islander Park

Many wonder what’s so special about Riverside’s hills. Here’s a look that gives you a hint about what living in paradise looks like.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Watkins Dr Gets Great American Clean Up

Thirteen intrepid community members scoured the one mile stretch of Watkins Driver bordered by Coyote Hill and the arroyo to the East. Twenty five bags of trash were picked up including: invasive weeds, auto body parts, a speaker, shelving, shopping cart and assorted bulky items.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

March Cargo Amazon Proposal Comment Letter

Amazon air cargo plane

March Cargo Amazon Future Plans

To: March Joint Powers Commission

Via: Dr. Danielle Wheeler, Executive Director March JPA

Cc: Carey Allen, March JPA

From: Friends of Riverside’s Hills

Re: Continuation to Aug. 1 Special Meeting of July 25 Agenda Item 11a – Addendum to MND for Zoning case Z04-01 – Amazon use

Honorable Chair and Members of the March Joint Powers Commission:

Friends of Riverside’s Hills (FRH), an incorporated nonprofit 501(c)(3) association devoted to protecting the environment in western Riverside County, has concerns about the proposed project, particularly potential noise impacts from air cargo flights and traffic impacts on our already congested roads, and thus opposes the project in its present form.

In late 2009, litigation between FRH and March JPA was settled with a Settlement Agreement that included the following:

“March JPA’s Obligations. The March JPA shall describe the baseline environmental conditions that apply under law at the time they release any future Notice of Preparation or, if no Notice of Preparation is prepared, at the time environmental review commences.”

(The entire said settlement agreement is hereby incorporated by reference.) Since the present project involves a substantial environmental review (even if only in connection with an addendum to a previous MND), March JPA was thus obligated to describe the baseline environmental conditions that applied at the time they began the present environmental review. Where is that description, and when was it done? We can find no mention of the baseline in the project environmental review that commences on p. 129 of the July 25 agenda. While the omission, and apparent violation of the Settlement Agreement, may be inadvertent, the matter of the baseline environmental conditions has legal importance. When describing a project’s environmental setting, CEQA mandates that “[a]n EIR must include a description of the physical environmental conditions in the vicinity of the project, as they exist at the time … environmental analysis is commenced. This environmental setting will normally constitute the baseline physical conditions by which a Lead Agency determines whether an impact is significant.” Descriptions of the project and baseline conditions are also required when preparing impact analyses short of a full EIR, such as a Mitigated Negative Declaration, as the initial study must also contain a description of the project and an identification of the environmental setting per Guidelines Section 15063(d)(2).

A concise description of the project is given In Transportation and Traffic Technical Memorandum, where it states “Proposed Project The proposed project entails reuse of the existing aviation facility for resumed air cargo operations under a new operator.” But again neither there nor anywhere in the documents provided with the agenda item can we find any discussion or justification for using the project as projected in the 2004 MND as the baseline, despite the fact that there are a number of court decisions on attempts to use other than the normal requirement to use present conditions as a baseline.

Even if no description of baseline conditions for an Addendum to an MND were normally required, it would be required here by the Settlement Agreement with FRH cited above. So again, what is the baseline for the present project? Unless one could successfully argue for a rare exception, it is the present physical conditions, which include NO cargo air operations. Specifically, it is NOT the condition at the time of DHL cargo air operations, so it is irrelevant to argue that somehow the Amazon operations will be no worse, or even better, than the DHL operations, because the time of the DHL operations, or in the 2004 MND projections of future DHL operations, is NOT the baseline – the baseline is present conditions, under which there are NO air cargo operations.

So the impacts of changes from present conditions needs to be considered, and any new impacts analyzed and mitigated for.

The projects Noise Technical Memorandum states


The noise and nighttime awakenings analyses presented above demonstrate that the air cargo operations associated with the proposed project would generate less noise aircraft exposure and would decrease the potential for nighttime awakenings associated with the air cargo operations in the 2004 MND.”

But it has been nine years since the DHL air cargo operations (the ones projected in the 2004 MND) ceased, so that is the wrong baseline, and the proper comparison is with the present condition (since 2009) of NO air cargo operations.

As the Noise Technical Memorandum states,

“the percentage of residents awakened at least once during the course of the night … [f]or areas north of the airport … ranges from 3.1% to 3.8%. … For areas south of the airport, it ranges … 8.0 to 8.7%.”

Those figures are astounding. Please think of the impact on the health of all those people being awakened at least once a night by the huge noise of a low-flying passing jet aircraft. In air quality analyses one is concerned about the potential cancer impacts of one in a million, and here we have impacts (maybe not cancer, but still potentially serious healthwise) of over 8 in a hundred. But the Noise Technical Memorandum states

“there are no state or federal thresholds for evaluating impacts associated with awakenings from aircraft operations. Therefore, the results of this analysis are for informational purposes only.”

So they claim that the impacts can just be ignored? How cruel. But CEQA says if there MAY be significant impacts, which is certainly the case here using the proper baseline, then an EIR is required.

The project’s Traffic Technical Memorandum, in its Findings, claims that there are no “significant transportation or traffic impacts that are substantially more severe than significant impacts previously disclosed.” However, this is apparently not true regarding noise impacts. Indeed since the noise impacts revealed in the present project’s Noise Technical Memorandum, in particular on awakenings (even with only half the previous flights), are so severe, one can only conclude that the 2004 MND (to which this is an Addendum) DID NOT DISCLOSE the extent of those impacts, since if it had disclosed them, it would not have qualified for an MND but rather an EIR would then have been required. Thus the extent of these impacts is NEWLY DISCLOSED, AND THE PROJECT DOES NOT QUALIFY FOR AN ADDENDUM TO THE PREVIOUS MND.

We have been informed that Amazon is now proposing to not do nighttime flights (between 10 pm and 7 am), but it appears that in the revised environmental study there is no language about Amazon voluntarily refraining from flying night flights in perpetuity. The obvious thing to do is to make the restriction on night flights a Mitigation Measure, and thus permanent and enforceable. However, we are informed that a Commission member stated “The JPA staff informed the JPA commission that the FAA does NOT allow FAA (grant) funded airports to restrict hours of operations. Older airports with restrictions like John Wayne and Burbank were grandfathered in.” Certainly such a mitigation measure would be entirely appropriate under CEQA, but If it is true that such a mitigation measure banning night flights is not feasible for the reason claimed by JPA staff, then we have a situation in which there is a (newly disclosed) significant impact that cannot be avoided, calling for approval of overriding considerations, which under CEQA can only be done with a full EIR, not an Addendum to a previous MND.

In any case, there are too many problems with the project as proposed, and it cannot legally be approved with an Addendum as proposed by JPA staff.

Thank you for your consideration.

Friends of Riverside’s Hills, by its Legal Liaison Officer Richard Block

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Judge Sides With Environmental Groups Over 3600 House Project

Inadequate Environmental Reports Result In Uptick Of Denied Projects

 “…The Judge found the environmental impact report was inadequate on a number of issues which will likely have to be addressed before the project moves forward.”

Wendy Rea, founder of the Greenspot Residents Association

Wendy Rea, founder of the Greenspot Residents Association

A judge has ruled against Highland’s proposed 3,600-house Harmony development, partially siding with environmental and community groups that opposed the massive project in two related lawsuits.

The suits, filed in September 2016, challenged the city’s approval of the project due to what they called an “inadequate” environmental report.

Superior Court Judge Donald Alvarez found the report failed to analyze the entire scope of the project in leaving out a needed bridge over Mill Creek. Impacts on flooding, and to water and wildlife habitat were also not fully considered, he said.  Read more.

Redlands Daily Facts has the close local story.

San Bernardino County Sentinel 

3600 new homes project rejected by judge

3600 new homes planned in flood plain of the Seven Oaks Dam

Map of Proposed Harmony Highlands Project

Map of Proposed Harmony Highlands Project

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Box Springs Mountain Reserve A Vision Forming

Vision Unfolds For Box Springs

Mountain Reserve’s Future


image0-RIVERSIDE: Vision unfolding for Box Springs Mountain reserve's future


Agency: Riverside County Regional Park & Open-Space District

Consultant: Prepared by San Diego landscape architecture firm KTU+A

Published: November 2015

Information:; plan link.

Riverside County’s new master trails plan for Box Springs Mountain Reserve unveils a vision for a network of nearly 70 miles of sustainable paths with scenic views, technical challenges for hikers and mountain bikers and new routes to the mountain’s “Big C,” a UC Riverside homecoming ritual cancelled last fall over safety concerns.

The plan is part of an effort to help maintain locals’ access to the reserve and its wild trails after Metrolink trains began running on the Perris Valley Line on Monday, June 6.

The Riverside County Transportation Commission in late May put up a six-foot-tall fence for 2,000 feet along the railway between Big Springs Road and Mount Vernon Avenue to stop University neighborhood residents and UCR students from crossing the tracks at Islander Park to hike the popular Big C Trail and other parts of the reserve.

There are no crossing gates, warning lights or signs at the tracks there.

RELATED: Moreno Valley urging residents to take a hike

Pedestrian crossings there, which are illegal, drew mounting safety concerns as the transportation commission’s upgrades to the 24-mile Perris-to-Riverside railroad track extension were completed in May. After decades of scant use by slow-moving freight trains, the railway will now serve up to 240 Metrolink trains a month.

Yet before any trail upgrades can get underway, stakeholders must determine whether to build a tunnel or bridge across the upgraded tracks to a new or existing Big C Trail up Box Springs Mountain, buy land and finance construction.

“At this point, everybody is kind of on hold as we try to resolve what gets built and what we’re applying for,” said Jeff Greene, chief of staff for Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, whose office has been involved in work on the issues.


Protecting access to the 3,400-acre reserve – an important natural corridor that’s home to hidden springs, abundant wildlife and one of the region’s most popular hiking areas – was one reason the local land preservation group, Friends of Riverside’s Hills, sued to stop the $248 million commuter rail line extension.

The master plan’s creation was overseen by the Riverside County Regional Park & Open-Space District, which manages the reserve, and funded with $189,000 from a court-approved settlement to Friends of Riverside’s Hills.

The $3 million settlement directed the transportation commission, which owns the tracks, to reduce train noise and grant residents access to the reserve, an open space also used by bears, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, burros and burrowing owls.

In addition, the settlement provided funds to buy land, build trails and help residents reduce train noise on their properties, said Gurumantra Khalsa, president of Friends of Riverside’s Hills and a University neighborhood resident.

The reserve currently holds seven established trails totalling 17.25 miles: Two Trees, Skyline Loops 1 and 2, Edison, Sugarloaf, the M above Moreno Valley and the favorite yet unofficial Big C Trail, a roughly mile-long route with deeply rutted sections on steep, eroding slopes.

The master plan calls for 68.5 miles of interconnected trails that would include two loops circling the base and mountaintops, three short vista trails and a paved, multi-use path along the Perris Valley Line between Moreno Valley and UCR that may be used by bicycle commuters and students.

The plan also proposes new staging areas and trailheads that could include toilets, corrals, water, picnic tables, benches, shade trees, hitching posts, bike racks or parking. Trailheads would have fewer amenities.

Existing trails would be rerouted to make them more sustainable and environmentally friendly and to create more challenging routes through boulders and rock slabs for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers.

Some informal trails could be added to the system, which would contain more neighborhood access points to increase connectivity for the most residents from all the surrounding communities, Khalsa said.

“Once it’s completed and built, it’ll be a fabulous resource,” he added.

Plan consultants estimated trail work could cost up to $74,000 per mile, although much could cost far less and some would cost more. The plan doesn’t estimate total cost, said Riverside County Regional Park & Open-Space District Resources Bureau Chief Keith Herron.


Project partners including the county, preservation group, city, UCR and RCTC must agree on the next steps to tackle, including whether a tunnel or bridge can be built across the tracks at Islander Park, then create a construction plan before federal and state grants are sought. No meetings are set, he said.

Islander Park may get a staging area to provide access to the lower circumference trail, the multi-use path and two new C Trails: a 3.75-mile main trail with long, gentle switchbacks across the face of the mountain and a 2.5-mile technical C Trail. The heavily damaged existing Big C Trail would be abandoned.

Without such a crossing, C Trail access would be at Blaine Street, a car ride away from the UCR campus and much of the neighborhood. Students are unlikely to go that far, and campus officials are considering how much to pitch in for a tunnel or bridge, UCR Director of Local Government and Community Relations Jeff Kraus said.

“We think there needs to be a solution that’s closer to campus than Blaine. A safe solution,” he said.

RCTC posted “No Trespassing” signs and mounted a rail safety educational campaign before weekend test trains began running Oct. 31. The agency supports the plan and agreed in the settlement to allow a crossing that complies with state and federal laws for rail right-of-way, said commission Deputy Executive Director John Standiford.

Friends of Riverside’s Hills paid for the plan to support county grant applications and expects to provide matching funds, but can’t finance the entire project, Khalsa said.

The group is working on cost estimates for low-cost track crossings after the county and RCTC estimated a tunnel or bridge could cost $2 million. The group hired retired State Parks Director Pete Dangermond to coordinate certain issues including land acquisition, Friends of Riverside’s Hills board member Kevin Dawson said.

The fence is temporarily blocking access to the reserve from a large chunk of the University neighborhood, Khalsa said.

“We’ve got more trains, we’ve got more traffic, we have less access,” said Khalsa, adding the group is trying to get access restored as quickly as possible.

After nearly 60 years of UCR homecoming hikes on the existing Big C Trail, the event was cancelled for the 2015 homecoming in November after someone from RCTC called the university’s alumni foundation and asked them not to hold the hike, said Kraus, who doesn’t know if the hike will be held this year.

He couldn’t confirm reports that someone from RCTC told foundation workers Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, who police Metrolink, would cite hikers for trespassing on homecoming.

Standiford said that was possible.

“We might have,” he said. “It’s entirely out of safety. There are trailheads in the area where that trail can be accessed without having to cross the tracks there.”

Contact the writer: 951-368-9444 or

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Riverside GreenFest and Summit Save The Date

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

San Diego Open Space Grows

Lucky 5 Ranch Open Space Preservation

Just another example of why open space is so important. Read more . . .

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Animal Protection Thrives Under Wildlife Crossing

Nevada State Route 93 Wildlife CrossingHuman and wildlife travel are beginning to coexist in safer and healthier ways as wildlife crossings become a standard best practice for highway departments.

Wildlife crossings can be as simple as a small culvert under the roadway designed for reptiles and amphibians, or structures can be as complicated as a bridge crossing over an interstate designed for large animals like deer and elk.

Regardless of the type of crossing, the intent is to make the roadways safer by diverting wildlife away from motorist throughways while also reducing habitat fragmentation and increasing landscape connectivity.Find out how states are beginning to work together with wildlife and drivers in Roads and Bridges.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Supreme Court Delivers Blow to Rails-to-Trails


The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a private land owner in Wyoming, who sued to reclaim land once granted to a railroad under an 1875 law. The ruling undermines the legality of the nation’s network of public trails built on former rail right-of-way.

Lyle Denniston details the 8-1 ruling in Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States: “At considerable potential cost to the federal government, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that land swapped with, or transferred to private owners under an 1875 law became their property in full again once a railroad that ran across the property has been abandoned. The decision turned mainly upon an argument that the government had made to the Court seventy-two years ago and won — an argument that now was turned against it.” The 1942 case that enabled this week’s ruling was Great Northern Railway Co. v. United States.

According to Denniston, it’s still unclear just how much land the ruling will impact: “It is unclear just how many acres (primarily in western states) will be covered by the new ruling, although the Justice Department had told the Court that the case involved the legality of ‘thousands of miles of former rights-of-way’ that the public now uses as recreational trails or park lands.”

In a separate article, Jess Bavin addresses the impact of the ruling on efforts around the country to convert former rail rights-of-way into public trails. Bavin quotes Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the lone dissenting member of the court, who makes the point of how expensive a decision this might represent: “The Court undermines the legality of thousands of former rights of way that the public now enjoys as means of transportation and recreation…And lawsuits challenging the conversion of former rails to recreational trails alone may well cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Full Story: Opinion analysis: Victory — and money — for landowners
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Amazing Animal Bridges Around the World


Animals bridges, which may also be known as ecoducts or wildlife crossings, are structures that allow animals to safely cross human-made barriers like highways. A wildlife crossing is the broadest term and can include: underpass tunnels, viaducts, overpasses and bridges, amphibian tunnels, fish ladders, culvets and green roofs. [Source]

Wildlife crossings are a practice in habitat conservation, allowing connections or reconnections between habitats and combating habitat fragmentation. They also assist in avoiding collisions between vehicles and animals, which in addition to killing or injuring wildlife may cause injury to humans and property damage. It has been reported that vehicle-animals collisions costs the United States a staggering $8 Billion a year.

The first wildlife crossings were constructed in France during the 1950s. European countries including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and France have been using various crossing structures to reduce the conflict between wildlife and roads for several decades and use a variety of overpasses and underpasses to protect and reestablish wildlife such as: amphibians, badgers, ungulates, invertebrates, and other small mammals. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Humane Society of the United States reports that the more than 600 tunnels installed under major and minor roads in the Netherlands have helped to substantially increase population levels of the endangered European Badger. The longest “ecoduct” viaduct, near Crailo in the Netherlands, runs 800 meters and spans a highway, railway and golf course. [Source: Wikipedia]

Wildlife crossings are becoming increasingly common in Canada and the United States. Recognizable wildlife crossings are found in Banff National Park in Alberta, where vegetated overpasses provide safe passage over the Trans-Canada Highway for bears, moose, deer, wolves, elk, and many other species. The 24 wildlife crossings in Banff were constructed as part of a road improvement project in 1978. In the United States, thousands of wildlife crossings have been built in the past 30 years, including culverts, bridges, and overpasses. These have been used to protect Mountain Goats in Montana, Spotted Salamanders in Massachusetts, Bighorn Sheep in Colorado, Desert Tortoises in California, and endangered Florida Panthers in Florida. [Source: Wikipedia]

Below you will find a small gallery of animal bridges around the world. A few remain unidentified, if you recognize the location, please let us know in the comments below!



1. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


Photograph via Izismile




2. The Netherlands


Photograph via Izismile




3. B38 – Birkenau, Germany


Photograph via h4m on Reddit




4. Scotch Plains, New Jersey, USA


Photograph via Google Maps




5. E314 in Belgium


Photograph via Jarrl on Reddit




6. Highway A50 in The Netherlands


Photograph via SenseiCAY on Reddit




7. Flathead Indian Reservation, Montana, USA


Photograph via The World Geography




8. The Borkeld, The Netherlands


Photograph via The World Geography




9. Interstate 78, Wachtung Reservation, New Jersey, USA


Photograph by Doug Kerr




10. Near Keechelus Lake, Washington, USA (rendering, target 2014)


Photograph via The World Geography




11. Unknown


Photograph via The World Geography




12. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


Photograph by Qyd
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment