Viewpoint

Why does ranch owner view citizens as potential criminals?

November 28, 2012 

Recently an area of Cambria that has been enjoyed by residents for decades has been made off limits.

Of course I am referring to the Covell Ranch. Many members of our community are deeply concerned over what has taken place in recent months. Homeowners who live adjacent to the ranch have contacted The Nature Conservancy, the nonprofit organization who purchased the property from Ralph Covell to create an easement to protect and preserve the land. They’ve addressed such issues as the masticator and the resulting debris that exists throughout the easement, not just within the 100-foot firebreak, as well as the installation of the barbed wire fence now surrounding the entire area. This has affected the passage of the deer through this area, and their regular habits of coming and going from their homes.

If I may quote some of the responses from Scott Butterfield of TNC: “Our goals (of The Nature Conservancy, Mr. Ralph Covell, Cal Fire, and Cambria Fire) during this process have remained the same: to maintain and enhance the conservation values, including the Monterey pine forest within the Covell Ranch while also reducing the threat of catastrophic fire.

“Illegal trespassing is a major liability concern for Mr. Covell and TNC ... We believe illegal trespassing does increase the threat of weed spread and fire ignition ... the prevention/reduction of trespassing was (a) SPECIFIC GOAL (my emphasis) of the fencing project.”

For decades members of our community have walked through the area in question. This was done without complaint from the previous owners. I’m referring to the Phelan family, who owned this land for several generations, as well as the CT Ranch development group, who ultimately sold the land to Mr. Covell. We are talking about teachers, artists, builders, gardeners, architects, business owners, parents and their children and retired folks.

Knowing many of these individuals personally, I can say without reservation that we all have reverence and respect for the land, and a deep appreciation for the solitude and nourishment of one’s soul and spirit that being close to Mother Earth provides.

Yet we are described by the Conservancy and Mr. Covell as faceless trespassers who are a threat to the well being of the wooded area, potentially irresponsibly causing fire to occur. Mind you, many of those who have walked through the easement area live adjacent to the property, and would be more greatly threatened by fire than the landowner who lives much farther away. To see these thoughtful people who contribute much to the creativity and well being of our community as inconsiderate lawbreakers is to go far afield from the reality of the situation. You could actually say these people are Mr. Covell’s neighbors. Yet the way they are being regarded by the landowner and the Conservancy, is anything but neighborly.

The abundance of natural beauty that surrounds Cambria helps make our town such a magical place. To fence off an area such as this with barbed wire and threats of arrest and prosecution totally ignores a major reason we human beings live on Planet Earth — to commune, and live in harmony, with nature. It is quite discouraging to find fear and control overriding these essential needs of the human spirit. Let us hope that time, some quality of open dialogue, compromise, and appreciation of one another will help create the opportunity to once again enjoy a special part of Cambria’s open space.

Harry Farmer has been an active protector of the environment during his 26 years in Cambria.

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