Community’s actions count

Think globally, act locally. That is the mantra of conscientious personal actions by individuals who care about their environment.

Maybe a person can’t do much about coal-burning power plants being built in China or India, but they can do something about their own actions and about what happens in their own community. Below are one person’s thoughts about some tough issues facing San Luis Obispo County in 2010 (and beyond).

Solar power and the Carrisa Plain: Another guiding thought for people is be careful what you wish for. Sooner or late, modern society has to get away from fossil fuels and solar power generation has been seen as a potentially major power source. But where do you put such generating facilities, and what do they look like? The beautiful, scenic Carrisa Plain has many qualities that make it ideal for solar power generation, but those same qualities, plus the plain’s high habitat values for many rare wildlife species, has led to a contentious debate over the plain’s appropriateness for such facilities.

My thoughts: I wish these facilities would just go somewhere else that is already ugly, like the oil fields on the other side of the Temblor Range. I also feel that the first priority should be “dispersed generation” using existing roofs and covering parking lots in town, rather than covering over virgin ground.

But if they can somehow avoid serious loss of habitat value and continue to have grazing (most likely sheep) among the panels, in my mind, a lot of problems like weed control go away. Then maybe it will be all right.

Whither Dalidio?: Probably the most controversial development project in the county is the proposal for commercial development on the Dalidio farm in San Luis Obispo. It has been debated for 15 or 20 years; a movie could be made about the twists and turns of this saga.

My thoughts: A development plan for this site could be quickly successful if it stepped back a little, say to 40 or 45 percent of the site for development; retained a large working landscape; incorporated historic buildings; preserved the trees as much as possible (carbon sequestration); and put greater emphasis on housing and less on commercial development.

Also, bring it into the city; a separate public water and sewer system doesn’t make sense. This should be possible without posing a risk to airport operations.

Motorized recreation at the Oceano Dunes: Some people love to ride the Dunes; others hate the whole idea. Should the county sell its land there to the state, and can that be done while allowing vehicular use? How do we address the air pollution problem?

My thoughts: Riding the Dunes isn’t my cup of tea, but it is legal to ride there and certainly looks like a major contributor to the local economy. While I think something must be done to address the air quality issue, I am reluctant to simply try to cut off the use completely. I prefer to look at reasonable anti-pollution measures now and look forward to the day when there won’t be gas for such activities — or it will cost too much. That will lead the way to restoration.

To cite an analogy, rock quarries may operate (and generate noise and dust) for up to 100 years, but when the quarrying is done, the sites are restored or put to other productive uses.

Ag and open space conservation opportunities: Our open spaces — public and private — are one of the things that everyone loves about our county. 

There currently are some significant opportunities to conserve more of those lands. The Wild Cherry Canyon project will greatly increase the size of Montaña de Oro State Park and create great new hiking, biking and equestrian opportunities. So will the Froom Ranch project in San Luis Obispo.

The city and county are looking at a joint project on the east side of San Luis Obispo that would create workforce and senior housing above the General Hospital site, while ensuring permanent protection of about 180 acres of scenic hillside above Johnson Avenue.

In Arroyo Grande, the battle to preserve the Meadow Creek wetlands is not over by any means. In Paso Robles, citizens are looking hard at ways to support permanent conservation of the “purple belt” of vineyard lands, as well as the beautiful Salinas River corridor that runs through town.

Finally, county voters may have a chance to create a public entity to further ag land conservation in 2010.

My thoughts: Keep up the good work, everyone. Land conservation is the best and cheapest way to fight global climate change and habitat loss. It is also what the community wants.

Think globally, act locally. Every little bit helps.

Neil Havlik is the natural resources manager for the city of San Luis Obispo.

Editor’s note

This is another in a series of perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that San Luis Obispo County will face in 2010.

We asked local experts to weigh in on a variety of areas — including government, the economy, the environment, social services and education — by offering some advice, along with their forecasts.

Today, Neil Havlik, natural resources manager for the city of San Luis Obispo, shares his thoughts about some of the most pressing environmental issues facing local communities. On Friday, county administrative officer Jim Grant will talk about what’s ahead for local governments.