Apr 26, 2019
by Tom Austin
Forgive me for opening with the weather, but this time it is relevant to the news at hand. It’s warming up and the forest is shaking off the early spring damp. When that gradual drying process reaches fruition, right around the time the grape vines do the same, it will be fire season. While we all hope for a respite from the horrors of the last couple such, this is the time to follow Nana’s advice and expect the worst while hoping for the best. The good news is that you can do quite a bit more than wring your hands and worry. You can put those hands to work constructively, by hardening your home. That’s a very warlike term, hardening, and I don’t know that I like it all that much. How about “preparing” instead?
Preparing is what I have been doing in my yard the last couple of weekends, after I got a visit from Cal Fire. They were there to assess the readiness of my home for fire season. I got a couple of check marks, as I’m sure some of you also have. I wasn’t home to speak with them, but I will try to do so at their next visit, which could be as soon as tomorrow. The checkmarks I got had to do with the big branches still on my roof after the winter’s storms, the ivy trying to gain a foothold below my deck, and most of all the pine needles piled up against the house knee deep below the big ol’ tree. I’m sure you have some similar situations. The good news is that all of those things are fixable with a few hours of sweat equity, and most are things I already knew I needed to do. I would like to get some clarity on what “defensible space” means in a Camp Meeker context. I know I need to remove dead or dying vegetation from near my domicile, to paraphrase, but the hundred feet of defensible space I am tasked with creating easily extends up to and beyond my property line. Am I to have a dead zone throughout my property? And where do pine needles and dead leaves fall on the dead vegetation list? In the natural order of things, that all turns to topsoil – as it is in fact doing in my yard. Am I to interrupt that natural and beneficial process?
These questions and more I trust will be answered as we, together, work through the process. Fire Safe Camp Meeker (FSCM) continues to meet and lay groundwork. The Press Democrat in an article on regional fire safety, mentioned in passing that Camp Meeker would be the recipient of a grant. The rest of the article implies that the grant is for educational purposes, but FSCM co-founder Richard Seaman clarifies that the grant was applied for by FSCM (with input from local agencies and experts) specifically a planning grant, meant to allow the hiring of professional help in the writing of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Think of CWPP as an architecture document outlining the overall strategy for defending Camp Meeker against a wildfire. Within that strategic plan are tactical elements, such as the aforementioned home “preparation” (all right, hardening, geez) that can be done by you, the homeowner. I am cooling off after another vigorous afternoon of what President Reagan used to call “clearing brush” at his ranch. Whatever the niceties of “defensible space” interpretation, I feel on solid ground in keeping my roof clean and my yard relatively free of ivy and other invasive species.
On another subject: my colleague in Occidental, Gino Gaffney, has already well covered this subject in last month’s Gazette, but the Occidental Farmer’s Market is navigating some rough waters. I chime in on this subject because Occidental is where us Camp Meeker folk go when we want to go “downtown”, us not having one of our own. Therefore we feel a sense of ownership in community activities there, and with that an obligation to pitch in when there is work to be done there. In the case of the Farmer’s Market, I will tread lightly because as I understand it there is already no shortage of hurt feelings and recriminations, (doesn’t there first need to be “criminations?” before we start re-criminating?) and I don’t want to tread on any toes that are already sore. Here’s the nub of it: there have been ongoing conversations between the Farmer’s Market and the local business owners regarding aspects of the Market that all agree need improvement: better safety for children who might dash into the road, protecting access to businesses who might otherwise be adversely affected by the Market, and better cleanup after the Market shuts down. The hard working people who run the market felt that they didn’t have the bandwidth to address those issues to the degree that was being requested, and had grown too large (and too important to the town, frankly) to move back to the Occidental Community Center, where they started 17 years ago.
I will also report that those among the local business owners (some who feel unfairly blamed for “shutting down the market”) are at pains to point out that they support the idea of the Market and agree that it is a valuable community resource. Watching from a safe distance, it all looks to me like “too much work, too few hands” and a disagreement about how to apportion responsibility among those hands. Discussion continues among the principals, perhaps including a new organization created to run the market. But here is where I challenge you, Camp Meeker: if, as said before we see Occidental and its Farmers Market as something we have a stake in, it might be time to ante up with some sweat equity commensurate with that stake. If the problem is too much work, not enough hands…offer your hands! I don’t have a signup sheet for you, but if requests for help from the current principals reach me, I will be sure to pass that on in this space.
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