Claremont Courier

City Receives 20-acre Parcel to Expand Wilderness Park

January 13, 2021 1:52 PM

The city of Claremont received a gift of 20 acres of land in the hills east of Webb Canyon, according to the city manager’s weekly update. The parcel, which was donated by Arthur and Susan Bertolina, will be preserved as open space.

“The city has had a long-standing commitment to preserving open space in our hillsides. I would like to thank the Bertolina family for their generous gift, which ensures more of our wilderness corridor remains preserved,” Acting City Manager Adam Pirrie said.

The parcel, which is appraised at $300,000, is bounded by three privately owned parcels to the north, west, and south and is adjacent to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park on  the east. While the city issued a news release about the gift dated December 21, it was just announced Friday.
“The city would like to thank the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy for its role as a liaison between city staff and the Bertolinas throughout the negotiations and for its significant contribution to the costs of the transaction,” city officials said in a statement.

Terry Grill, president of the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy thanks the Bertolinas and congratulates the city for the project’s success.

“We are grateful to the Bertolinas for contributing this valuable open space to the Wilderness Park,” she said. “This addition is one more step toward our vision of extending the park westward from Johnson’s Pasture so that it links up with Marshall Canyon, helping to form a continuous wildlands corridor along the face of the San Gabriel foothills as far as Monrovia. And we commend our city, which supports efforts to expand the parkland in our hillsides and manage it effectively.”

Sycamore Canyon Gets Repairs

new stairs at Sycamore
New stairs at Sycamore Canyon

Good News! Restoration work has begun on the Sycamore Canyon portion of the CHWP. Phase 1 has been completed with the reconstruction and relocation of the stairs at the trailhead near the Thompson Creek Trail.

Phase 2 will focus on the rest of the trail, including the addition of “landing pads” on switchbacks. The hope is to get this second phase completed before the end of this fiscal year.

Phase 3 will address erosion. This will be ongoing and will include the Friends of the Wilderness Park and the help of Scouts and reserve Rangers.

~Meg Mathies is a CWC Board member and a volunteer with the Friends of the Wilderness Park.


Nancy Hamlett, Citizen Scientist

(This article appeared in our 2020 newsletter, The Post. The full newsletter is available here: Contact us here to be added to our mailing list:

The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park is a great place for volunteer and citizen scientists to explore and learn about Southern California’s native plant and animal species. Within the park there is an abundance of invasive, nonnative species. These can often disrupt native habitats. An important focus of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park Master Plan is monitoring the natural environment to ensure that native and sensitive species survive and minimize the introduction and spread of nonnative species.

Nancy Hamlett, a retired professor of biology and a longtime resident of Claremont, is piloting two collection projects with the Friends of the Wilderness Park (FWP), the citizen support group established in the Master Plan. She and the FWP have created a collection project using an online network tool called iNaturalist. The project, called “Biota of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park,” focuses on everything that lives in the park. So far, this project has documented nearly 1,200 observations and 358 species. A second CHWP collection project, using Calflora, another networked online application, is called “concerned with weeds”; its name speaks for itself. These online networks are helpful tools that allow us to combine our efforts in the Park and provide a mechanism to help scientists and naturalists share information. They have mobile phone apps that make it easy to upload photographs and quickly record observations.

Nancy Hamlett documents plants in her CHWP project. (Photo credit: Vicki Salazar)

Nancy’s work also includes finding and documenting sensitive species within the park, such as the crotch bumble bee (Bombus crotchoii). This bee is one of many species that have suffered a decline in population; it is now listed as a candidate endangered species. To bring awareness to its plight, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website featured a photograph of the crotch bumble bee taken by Nancy in the CHWP, their “photo of the month” for February 2020.

In addition to her work with the Friends of the Wilderness Park, Nancy has been the volunteer coordinator and webmaster for the Claremont Colleges’ Bernard Field Station for over ten years. Nancy’s knowledge and tireless volunteer work is invaluable to the CHWP and the City of Claremont.

~Vicki Salazar is a CWC Board Member and volunteer with the Friends of the Wilderness Park.

CWC Leads Efforts to Expand Wilderness Park

In 1995 almost all of the 3000 acres of Claremont’s foothills were in private hands. Today only 500 acres are. The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park provides approximately 2500 acres of protected public open space for passive recreation and enjoyment of nature to residents of the region.

A primary goal of Claremont Wildlands Conservancy since its founding in 2000 has been to expand the park across Claremont’s foothills by working with the City of Claremont, the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, and private landowners to negotiate donations or fair-market- value purchase agreements for the remaining parcels. We have had many successes.

We recently facilitated a private land donation to the park of 20 acres along the western edge of Johnson’s Pasture. It is currently in escrow. But our major focus in the last four years has been adding to the park the 103 prime acres of Clara Oaks Estates, as named by its owner and developer, Randy Lim, and his partners.

Clara Oaks bridges the slopes between between Claraboya and Webb Canyon Road just north of Webb Schools. It is a beautiful natural landscape, the site of the eastern headwaters of the San Gabriel River watershed and home to numerous species of native plants, birds and animals. Its location also helps form a link between Claremont’s Wilderness Park and Los Angeles County’s Marshall Canyon Regional Park, which extends toward the green corridor along the San Gabriel foothills.

In 2016 Clara Oaks Estates, LLC acquired these acres with plans to build 40-47 luxury homes on the southern half of the property and donate the northern portion to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. But in 2018 the partners offered Claremont Wildlands Conservancy the opportunity to purchase the entire site, which would be added to the park. Since then, we have been actively exploring funding sources and applying for grants to raise the necessary funds to meet the independently appraised value. It’s a heavy lift.

Currently Clara Oaks Estates, LLC is applying for entitlements to the City for development of the property. However, as a first priority, the partners are still open to an outright sale of the entire parcel for the park if terms can be agreed upon. We are working closely with Trust for Public Land to acquire funds from two voter- approved measures. One is California’s 2018 Proposition 68 funds, which are allocated to this region through the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy. The other is L.A. County’s 2016 Measure A. These funds are finally about to be released.

If we fail, it is likely that 40 or more luxury homes will be built on the Clara Oaks property. If we succeed, we will save this splendid natural preserve for foxes and mule deer, for laurel sumac and western sycamores, and for hikers and nature lovers now and in future generations.

~Lissa Petersen is a past president of the CWC, currently a Board member and chair of the Acquisitions Committee.

Giving Tuesday

Next Tuesday, Dec. 3, is “Giving Tuesday.” This is a great opportunity to show your support for the Claremont Wildlands Conservency and our efforts on behalf of the Claremont Wilderness Park with your tax deductible donation. Simply click on “Donate to the CWC” and use PayPal or print the donation form and mail it in.

Letter from CWC President Terry Grill (from Autumn 2019 newsletter)

As I complete my second year as president of the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy, I am grateful for the vision set out in 2000 by our founders Nancy Wing and Suzanne Thompsonas well as the organizational foundation established by our previous president, Lissa Petersen. We have an exceptional volunteer board dedicated to achieving our purpose of expanding the amount of accessible and protected open space in the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park and surrounding area. Our board was strengthened this year by the addition of Alison Martinez and Muriel Poston. You can read more about them in this newsletter.

I am especially appreciative of Ali’s deep knowledge of the CHWP and its Master Plan as well as her passion for educating others about park appreciation and stewardship. I am also grateful that Muriel is willing to contribute her knowledge of botany, her thoughtful perspectives and passion for community and external engagement. Ali, Muriel and John Norvell are launching a new program to educate children about responsibly enjoying nature in their nearby Wilderness Park.

We reported in 2017 that the size of the Wilderness Park expanded by 463 acres thanks to the generous gift of Evey Canyon by Pomona College. During the last year, the property was officially accepted by the City of Claremont and work begun to integrate it into the CHWP. There are challenges. One is security at the parking lot at the entrance to the Evey Canyon trail and the other is the safety for pedestrians parking across Baldy Road. There is no continuity between the fire road at the CHWP and Evey Canyon since a portion of the fire road crosses private land.

Members of the Claremont Hills Conservation Corporation voted this year to dissolve. The organization was established to oversee the City of Claremont’s stewardship of the land originally donated by Pomona College to establish the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. The City’s history of responsible management of the property and use of a well considered master plan for the park indicated that such oversight was no longer necessary. A portion of the remaining funds was donated to build a new kiosk at the Mills Avenue entrance to the CHWP.

The City continues to implement the CHWP Master Plan and to foster a culture of respect for wildlife in and neighbors living next to the park. Most important to the implementation are the 17 rangers who greet and assist visitors. I congratulate the Friends of the Wilderness Park, the grass roots organization working with the City, for the contributions they have made to establishing this culture. They greet visitors and pick up litter on the second Saturday of every month, have mapped invasive species and are working to establish an overall plan for signage. Please read about mapping invasive species and the iNaturalist project in another article in this Newsletter and go to to learn more.

The owner and developer of Clara Oaks, a 103-acre hillside parcel along Webb Canyon Road just north of the Webb School Campus, has recently submitted a draft Specific Plan for the development of luxury homes in the southern cluster area and the contribution of the rest of the property to the CHWP. While we welcome additional land for the CHWP, we continue to advocate for maintaining all available hillside properties adjacent to the CHWP as open space. We will, of course, continue to monitor the progress of this development.

I want to thank former board members Nick Jensen and Beverly Speak for their contributions over the last years. Both have moved to pursue other endeavors but their legacies remain.

I hope that all of you receiving our newsletter feel welcome to join our efforts by serving on one of our committees or joining us at our booth on Earth Day or Independence Day in the coming year. Please take a look at our new web site and let us know if you can find all that you hope to see. We welcome your comments and contributions of stories or photos. If you would like to contribute photos to our gallery, please email them with the photographer’s name and captions to hope to see you on the trails.

Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook.

Reflections of a Pasture Walker

The focus of so much energy and effort and angst
The coming together of passion and politics and unexpected partnerships…
And now it’s finally ours!?
Be careful, though, when you say this.
Maybe it’s not really ours as in to own, or to possess.
Although we may walk there, or bike there,
Or simply know that it’s there…
We don’t live there.
We will never build a house there now, thank you very much.
We are but guests in the home of those who do live there—
The deer, the hawk, the coyote and bobcat
The sage and chamise, the sumac, and cactus and oak,
We are welcome to visit, but not to stay,
In this chaparral-and-meadow, fire-,water,-and-wind-designed corridor,
Narrowly perched between the rugged mountains above
And the human-filled valley below.
No, the Pasture owns itself, as it always has,
What really transfers in the sale of real estate
Is not ownership, but obligation:
Responsibility to protect, to preserve, to learn and to track,
To understand that property and plants and wildlife,
And watershed and airshed and view-shed
Have intrinsic value that cannot be owned,
But can be lost if we lose sight of our goal,
If we become weary of walking the walk.
As we celebrate our success in purchasing Johnson’s Pasture
And appreciate the many folks who made it possible,
We honor them best by owning our ultimate and never-ending responsibility:
To pass on to our children and their children and their children’s children
The legacy of living in harmony with the Earth
And with each other.

-B. Speak

12 June 2007

Evey Canyon

Evey Canyon to be added to CHWP Thanks to Generous Pomona College Gift (Jul 14, 2017)

A generous gift from Pomona College will allow the City of Claremont to add Evey Canyon and parts of the Padua Hills to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park.

   On Tuesday, July 11, the City Council approved signing a memoranda of understanding (MOU) with Pomona College to accept ten parcels containing 463 acres for incorporation into the CHWP with the deed restriction that this land will remain open space in perpetuity and that it be available for passive recreational use. In doing so, Pomona College retired 21 development credits, a decision that preserves significantly more of Claremont’s hillsides as open space in perpetuity.

   The City Council’s approval begins a due diligence process that is expected to take six months. During this time City staff will evaluate the costs of incorporating this gift into the current park including parking, security, and coverage by rangers.

   The Claremont Wildlands Conservancy will be monitoring and reporting on progress as we learn more.

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