By Mary-Justine Lanyon
The September meeting of the Rim of the World Trails Alliance was held at SkyPark at Santa’s Village, where host Bill Johnson updated the Alliance on work being done at the park that is related to their mission.
SkyPark, Johnson reported, had applied for a grant to the California Wildlife Conservation Board through its Making Spirits Bright nonprofit foundation, to build a wildlife tunnel under Highway 18.
“We thought we had a good shot,” he said, “because the environmental reports had already been done. And we were told we looked good.
“We didn’t make it but were asked to resubmit in the next round,” Johnson said. “And they said they would help us with the writing. It’s a big learning curve.”
Johnson added that the meeting would not be taking place at SkyPark if it weren’t for his relationships with Senator Mike Morrell, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte and Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who helped make SkyPark a reality.
“It’s the same with this grant,” Johnson said. “The next time we will have a liaison to help us write it and I’ll talk to our legislators.”
While he doesn’t know the date for the next round of the grant, Johnson said he thinks it will be in six to eight months.
As for the highway work being done, Johnson noted they will be adding lanes on both sides of Highway 18. Those lanes will allow for access to both the park and the campground across the street.
“The campground is well underway,” he reported. “We hope to have it up and usable in November – at least part of it.”
The trail going down the mountain from the campground is “pretty gnarly,” Johnson said. “We will continue to clean it.”
He plans to talk with the U.S. Forest Service to see if they can develop a relationship.
Karla Kellem noted that the Big Bear Trails Foundation has been working successfully with the Forest Service. “We are maintaining their trails so we are being allowed to build new trails,” she said. She suggested Johnson speak with the Big Bear group.
He is anxious, Johnson said, to get the wildlife corridor in place because three animals had been struck in the last 60 days in the same spot where the corridor would be. “They cut across the old Wiley Woods, down to the SkyPark sign and then shoot across the highway,” Johnson said. He added they will be able to force the animals to use the tunnel with the addition of a fence.
Johnson also told the Alliance that SkyPark is footing the entire bill for work done on the highway. “We had zero impact by reopening something that was built 60 years ago,” he noted. Compared to some other proposed projects on the mountain, Johnson said their road project “looks insignificant.”
Meanwhile, the traffic light that will have to be installed by SkyPark will not be happening any time soon. “It won’t be manufactured until February,” Johnson said. “We have to wait in line. They won’t make it until the state project is approved. We would like to have the intersection done by November. We may initially do shuttle service (between the park and the campground).”