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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

State Parks Plan for Nicholas Flat and Pond Approved by Coastal Commission

• Last-Minute Request for Continuance Was Turned Down

BY BILL KOENEKER

An eleventh-hour request by wetlands activist Marcia Hanscom to continue the California Coastal Commission hearing on trail plans and other so-called “ improvements” at Nicholas Flat and Pond were turned down last week by the staff and panel which approved State Parks’ plans.
It is sure to upset some visitors, who have treasured the upland portion of Leo Carrillo State Park as a untouched bit of wildlands.
The Department of Parks and Recreation successfully sought a coastal permit for “habitat restoration and access upgrades” to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act along the Nicholas Pond Trail.
Plans call for the construction of a 72-square foot pond overlook, 4262 cubic yards of grading, installation of two pedestrian bridges, creation of an ADA parking space, converting 1430 feet of existing ranch road to trail, removal of 945 feet of road-trail, re-routing 1050 feet for trail, reconstructing 490 feet of trail, removing existing culvert and fill to restore natural stream profile of San Nicholas Creek.
The commission staff, which recommended approval of the proposal with seven special conditions, told the commission there was no new evidence that suggested the matter should be continued.
The CCC staff report notes the project includes the encroachment of development within the protected zone of oak trees. Though minor, the project also includes the removal and transplantation of many oak saplings.
“It will have the effect of creating more trees on the site,” the planner told commissioners.
“The proposed project site may contain archaeological resources, but most of the site is disturbed,” he added, noting, the project is conditioned to have an archaeological monitor and Native American consultant on-site during ground-disturbing activities.
The pond overlook would be located on the southwest edge of the pond to meet ADA standards, according to the CCC report.
A 65-foot free-spanning bridge will be constructed over San Nicholas Creek to create a continuous, ADA-compliant trail to the pond, according to the commission report.
A second bridge, 45 feet in length, will be constructed over a side channel of San Nicholas Creek to replace an existing dirt crossing, according to the report.
The site is located within what is called the Nicholas Flat Natural Preserve, described as a largely undeveloped 600-acre area in the northeast portion of Leo Carrillo State Park
The commission report states that individual homesteads were formed in and around the north and west portions of the park in the 1880s through the 1890s and evolved into a community of small cattle ranches in the 1920s and 1930s.
State Parks demolished the complex of ranching structures in 1985.
Archaeological sites at Nicholas Flat, according to the report, include a large habitation site with multiple bedrock milling stations and several lithic features.
Local oral history says there is rock art that is buried in a rock shelter under the pond and a Native American cemetery feature may have been located nearby.

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