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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

State Parks To Take Nicholas Flat and Pond Plans to Coastal Commission

BY BILL KOENEKER

It may not amount to as many bulldozers as planned for Malibu Lagoon, but the proposal by State Parks for Nicholas Flat and its pond will have several of them headed up to the highlands in an area many regard as the last bastion of wilderness left east of the Arroyo Sequit.
It is sure to upset some visitors and locals who have treasured the upland portion of Leo Carrillo State Park as an untouched bit of true wildlands. The plans are set to be heard by the California Coastal Commission next week when the Department of Parks and Recreation seeks a coastal permit for “habitat restoration and access upgrades” to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act along the Nicholas Pond Trail.
The so-called improvements include 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 the natural stream profile of San Nicholas Creek.
The commission staff is recommending approval of the proposal with seven special conditions.
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.
“The proposed project site contains significant archaeological resources. The proposed grading and other ground disturbance, although much of the proposed work will be located in areas that have been previously disturbed by development of a ranch. Nonetheless, archaeological resources could be discovered during the implementation of the project. The project is conditioned to have an archaeological monitor and Native American consultant on-site during ground-disturbing activities,” the report states.
The ADA parking space is planned for the cul-de-sac at the end of Decker School Road and will also include a one-foot-high concrete retaining wall.
The pond overlook would be located on the southwest edge of the pond to meet ADA standards, according to CCC staff.
An informal overlook area already exists in the shade of several oak trees.
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, that will be constructed over a side channel of San Nicholas Creek to replace an existing dirt crossing would encroached into the drainage, according to the report.
An existing, non-ADA crossing, consisting of a culvert and in-stream fill, would be removed and the channel would be restored to its natural configuration.
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 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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