At the regular board meeting of the Camp Meeker Recreation And Park District on Oct 16, 2018, Richard Seaman made the following statement:
"In order to prevent misunderstandings, Iím reading my statement verbatim from a written text which Iíve provided to the board and the board secretary. A copy of the statement is available on the ďwhatís newĒ page of the Fire Safe Camp Meeker website. To keep within my allocated time, Iíll be speaking fast, and my preference is to be allowed to complete my statement before comments are made, or questions asked. Feel free to mark up the text as we go.
I want to thank the board for allowing me to present my case. I realize that Rec And Park has serious misgivings about the appropriateness of discussing this matter, and I realize that itís the boardís right not to discuss it, so it was generous of the board to allow me to submit an agenda item. I want us to treat this discussion as an exploration on everyoneís part of what it is I actually want Rec And Park to do, of what Rec And Park is allowed to do, and of what is best for Rec And Park to do.
I genuinely respect what the board does and I genuinely believe that all members of the board are doing what they believe is best for Camp Meeker within the operating parameters of the Rec And Park District. My respect is all the greater because I feel that being on the board is an unglamorous and largely thankless task which is nevertheless of enormous importance for Camp Meeker.
I think itís helpful if we start by establishing what weíre all agreed on, and then we can look at any areas weíre not agreed on.
Firstly, I hope that the board accepts that I am working on this project because I believe itís good for all members of the Camp Meeker community, including Rec And Park.
I also hope the board realizes that I understand that Rec And Park has limitations on what it can and should do.
As you probably know, one aspect of the Fire Safe Camp Meeker project involves restoration of the forest around Camp Meeker so itís more like Muir Woods or Armstrong Woods. I think weíre all agreed that this is not part of Rec And Parkís role, and is therefore not a valid reason for Rec And Park to support, or even consider, this matter.
I think weíre all agreed that public safety is not part of the mandate of Rec And Park. Other agencies have a public safety responsibility, but Rec And Park is only responsible for the continued operation, quality and financial security of the water system, the welfare of Anderson Hall and this building, and management of land parcels owned by Rec And Park.
Some months ago, Rec and Park was asked to get involved in a fire evacuation drill. I think we all agree that the public safety goal of the drill was important, but not only was the drill not within the mandate of Rec And Park, it could also expose Rec And Park to severe legal and financial consequences, and it was therefore entirely appropriate for the board not to become involved.
However, Iím concerned that the fire drill episode might have led to misunderstandings about what Iím requesting of Rec And Park, and maybe also false beliefs about things Iíve said. If I have said or done anything inappropriate, then please tell me, and Iíll be more than willing to publicly apologize, otherwise, I want to clarify any misunderstandings which might have happened. For instance, by pure chance I found out that the idea is circulating that I made a public, written claim on NextDoor.com that Rec And Park invited me to speak to the board tonight. At the very bottom of this document Iíve included the complete text of what I actually wrote so the board can see that I made no such claim.
A wildfire has public safety implications, but it has other implications as well, some within Rec And Parkís areas of responsibility. Iím concerned that Rec And Parkís initial interest in the fire drill, and then realization of the serious legal and financial consequences which could have resulted, might have caused the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction. Itís possible that the board has moved from a position of addressing wildfire issues which are outside Rec And Parkís mandate, to a position of not addressing wildfire issues which are genuinely within its mandate.
Rec And Park has no public safety mandate but it does have responsibility for Anderson Hall and this building. Clearly, a wildfire could destroy them and therefore itís the boardís responsibility to take appropriate steps to mitigate that risk.
Rec And Park also has responsibility for the physical integrity and quality of the water system. Weíre probably all aware of the damage done to the Fountaingrove water system by the Tubbs Fire. The intense heat damaged multiple components of the system, even melting deeply buried PVC pipes. The system was contaminated with benzene which took 12 months and $8 million to eliminate, requiring the replacement of 3 water mains and 440 water lines.
Rec And Park has responsibility for the financial sustainability of the water system. My research and discussions with fire personnel make me believe that Camp Meeker is vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires which could burn down most of the houses in the community. [To some] it might sound cruel and callous, but I believe that this should be an area of discussion for Rec And Park even if the lives of the inhabitants is not. I believe that in the aftermath of a large wildfire, many residents will be unable or unwilling to rebuild, causing permanent damage to Rec And Parkís financial position. Even if everyone evacuates safely, the loss of many of its customers and a possible need to reconstruct parts of the water system could seriously impact the financial viability of what is left, making it more difficult to service existing debt and requiring large rate increases for the remaining customers.
Finally, like every other member of the community, Rec And Park has responsibility to reduce the probability of a wildfire starting on its land, or spreading across its land to other parts of the community. Iím not sure of the boundaries of the parcel of land weíre currently on, but Iíve noticed large amounts of uncleared fuel near where we are. Since over 90% of fires in California are caused by humans and most of those fires start within 10 feet of a roadway, I believe that the Bohemian Highway corridor is of particular importance in the prevention and containment of wildfires in Camp Meeker.
Now, letís consider what Iím asking of the board. Iím not asking for financial assistance or the time of board members, beyond consideration of one request. Iím asking for the board to endorse the idea of setting up of an independent entity to undertake the legal, financial and logistical aspects of reducing wildfire risk within Camp Meeker, including risk on Rec And Park land parcels.
I realize that there is deep concern about the appropriateness of the board endorsing anything, but I feel that this is an area which ought to be investigated. I understand that Rec And Parkís counsel might already have offered a legal opinion in this area and, if so, it would be good to publicly parse that opinion to see whether it rules out the endorsement Iím requesting. Since this is such an important matter, I feel that it might well be appropriate to obtain a legal opinion on the specific text of an endorsement, such as the one offered near the end of my statement.
Itís important to understand what the endorsement is not about:
(1) Itís not an endorsement of me, or any other person. This project is now transitioning from being an individual effort to a team effort, some of whom are here tonight. I have many other things I want to do, and if someone comes along who can lead this project better than me, then Iíll happily step down.
(2) Itís not an endorsement of Fire Safe Camp Meeker as an organization. There is no such organization, and it will be some years before it could possibly exist as an independent legal entity, though we can achieve restoration and safety improvements even before that time.
(3) Itís not an endorsement of anything in the Fire Safe Camp Meeker proposal document, except the concept of setting up an appropriate entity to reduce wildfire risk in Camp Meeker.
We want Rec And Park to provide this endorsement in order to make it easier to get the support of community members, other landowners, government agencies and non-governmental organizations. We already have support from each of these groups, but the more support we get, the more effectively we can address the wildfire danger.
In less than a month, a community petition on this issue has attracted about 250 signatures. Our goal is between 300 and 400 before the end of 2018 but, even at the current level, I believe the petition demonstrates a significant level of support. The petition request says ďWe, the undersigned residents and/or property owners of Camp Meeker, ask the relevant agencies and landowners to make our community more fire safe by helping us restore the nearby redwood forest closer to what it was before it was cut.Ē As the second largest landowner within Camp Meeker, and as an agency which might be able to help this project with an endorsement, I believe that this petition is relevant for Rec And Park to consider.
During a meeting with Caerleon Safford of Fire Safe Sonoma, she invited us to address their board, with a view to initially setting up Fire Safe Camp Meeker under their umbrella, which would give us early access to grant money, and also give us their experience and help to write a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which opens up even more funding possibilities. Such a plan requires the input of all stakeholders, and in the case of Camp Meeker I believe that would include Rec And Park. Weíve also met with folks from the University of California Co-Operative Extension, and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District wants to meet with us. An indication of interest in the project from Rec And Park would encourage outside agencies like these to help us.
The petition demonstrates the support of individual community members, and endorsements by the VFD and Rec And Park are intended to demonstrate the support of organizations within the community charged with stewardship of community assets. The VFD has already provided an official endorsement, and tonight Iím asking Rec And Park for an endorsement along these lines:
ďAs part of our responsibility to minimize the risk of fire spreading from our properties to neighboring properties, to reduce fire risk to Anderson Hall and the other recreational facilities we manage, and to ensure the continued operation, quality and financial sustainability of the water supply system we operate, we endorse the idea of setting up an independent legal entity with proper insurance coverages to restore the forest surrounding Camp Meeker in order to reduce fire risk to the infrastructure of the community.Ē
Iíve raised a lot of issues tonight, so my personal preference is that the board delays a final decision on this endorsement until next month, so individual board members can consider it without feeling rushed. If the board is still concerned about the appropriateness of issuing such an endorsement, then a delay would allow a written legal opinion by Rec And Parkís counsel to be obtained. If there are problems with the endorsement as it stands, perhaps counsel could suggest ways to improve it.
ďFire Safe Camp Meeker
After only 3 weeks, we already have over 200 signatures on the Fire Safe Camp Meeker petition:
We've been invited to speak at the next board meeting of Fire Safe Sonoma, with a view to setting up initially under their umbrella. This would give us much earlier access to grant monies to get the Fire Safe Camp Meeker project underway, and they can also help us prepare a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which makes us eligible for even more grants.
Yesterday we had a very constructive first meeting with the team at St Dorothy's Rest, we'll be continuing to work with them as the project develops.
We also approached Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, and they told us: "We discussed the idea of a community forestry program for Camp Meeker in a staff meeting, and we're interested in working with you on it." We expect to set up meetings with them to discuss our project, and how they can help us develop it and put it into action.
Next Tuesday, October 16 at 7PM, we'll be at the Camp Meeker Recreation And Park District board meeting to request that they endorse the basic concepts of Fire Safe Camp Meeker, just as the Camp Meeker Volunteer Fire Department has already done. If you feel that this is a worthwhile project, then please come to the board meeting on Tuesday night to show your support, it could make a big difference!Ē"