Nobody is blocked off and no homes are located within the Bouquet Canyon Road closure area, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich’s planning deputy said Thursday.
“There’s a set of gates, one on the south side and two on north, with no homes in between. It’s all vacant land,” Edel Vizcarra said. “We made sure there was a detour available and there’s nothing unsafe.”
Vizcarra also said Vasquez Canyon Road will be open in two weeks.
“Public Works worked really hard to get (Vasquez) open before the end of the year,” he said.
The closure of 3.5 miles of upper Bouquet Canyon Road relates to the ongoing tug-of-war between the county, the state and forestry officials over the removal of sediment from Bouquet Creek.
“Sediment built up there over the years and is now higher than the road,” Vizcarra said. “When even a small amount of rain lands, it doesn’t have the opportunity to drain. It just pools (on the road).”
The county hasn’t been allowed to fix the problem.
“We (the county) don’t own these roads,” he said. “All the roads in the forest area are owned by the Forest Service. (When) we want to put in a stop sign, they tell us how.”
The Forest Service and state regulators won’t allow the county to go in and clean out sections of the creek, as the county planned to do, Vizcarra said. Now they’re demanding a full-blown watershed protection project.
At the heart of the problem is the unarmoured threespine stickleback, an endangered fish that might live in the creek. The federal government has not allowed the county to perform road or flood-control work for fear of disturbing the fish.
An additional challenge is that the canyon roads weren’t built to handle the amount of traffic they’re seeing today, Vizcarra said. The Forest Service has told the county it was never intended for leaseholders to live in the canyon year-round, he said.
“The reality is, the urbanism has moved into these roads that were never meant to be highways to be used by commuters. They are not meant to hold the large number of trips,” he said. “We are in a situation where cities were created around these forest areas; uses went from recreation to full-time homes for people. But that’s not what the intention of Bouquet was.”
The county conducted a safety assessment after multiple crashes on the roadway resulted in fatalities. The study aimed to see if safety improvements could be made.
As a result, the speed limit was reduced to 45 mph and electronic message boards were put up, telling people to slow down, Vizcarra said. Also, the CHP increased its patrols of the road, and the county is embarking on a larger project that will include recessed pavers and 800 new signs.
Bouquet Canyon residents have expressed concerns about the closure’s impact on trash collection and mail service. Vizcarra said a new plan was due from the U.S. Postal Service on Thursday evening, and waste haulers are still picking up trash.
The Big Oaks Lodge sits just north of the closure and is accessible from the north, Vizcarra said. From the south, people can get there by taking San Francisquito Canyon Road and cutting across on Spunky Canyon.
All emergency responders have keys and can get through the gates, Vizcarra said.