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.