CEA Informational Meeting - Article/Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Los Caballos Campground Replacement Issue:
Experts Provide a Clearer Picture, and New Focus

Descanso, Calif.—October 29, 2006  Nearly 50 people listened in rapt attention on Thursday afternoon as two of the Cuyamaca Equestrian Association’s (CEA’s) expert advisory team shared their findings from an in-depth review the Los Caballos campground issue.

CEA’s consulting attorney Bill Davis, and retired Regional Archeologist and Heritage Resource Program Manager with the Forest Service, Kent Schneider PhD, after much preparatory work, spent a week here conducting site visits, reviewing reports, and meeting with various agencies, archeologists, Native Americans, and others, researching the archaeological, cultural, and legal issues surrounding Los Caballos and possible replacement camp ground locations. At the end of the week, on October 26, 2006, CEA held a special meeting in El Cajon, where they presented an overview of what they learned.

Confusion and Poor Communication
Many of the seemingly “underhanded” dealings we have experienced (reversed decisions, shifting priorities, changing positions…) seem to be the result of poor communication, ill-defined organizational structure, and changes in upper management in the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). The problem is bigger than just Los Caballos. It isn’t clear who is in charge at State Parks.

We can increase our effectiveness by focusing on being part of the solution. Get to know the people in DPR at all levels, and learn the issues they face, so we are better able to help move projects forward.

Law, Site Designations, and Jurisdiction
State and federal laws relating to preserving cultural heritage, archaeology, and the environment affect our situation. Dr. Schneider presented an overview of many of these laws, and explained how each applies to the issues at hand. The laws discussed included the American Antiquities Act (1906), the National Historic Sites Act (1935), the National Historic Preservation Act (1966) the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (1979), the Native American Grave Repatriation and Protection Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. He reviewed site designations (Sacred Sites, Traditional Cultural Properties, and properties listed in, or eligible for inclusion in, the National Register of Historic Places, for instance), and explained the meaning of each designation.

We need to educate ourselves about these laws and distinctions, and learn how to address specific issues in direct, factual, unemotional ways.

Survey, Evaluation, Mitigation, and Use
Dr. Schneider reviewed the phases of preservation of historical resources. After background research, a project area (or area of potential affect) is surveyed to find any sites that may exist. California uses a two-step survey process: a walkover, followed by test pits at sites to determine their depths and boundaries. Remote sensing such as ground penetrating radar may be used. Based of the findings, the site is evaluated for eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Eligibility does not necessarily preclude public use of the site. Options are considered for protecting the site or mitigating damage. For instance, geo-textiles could be placed under a trail to protect against erosion and wear, or a particularly sensitive area could be fenced off. Or it may be true that the site is so significant that it should be protected in place with no further use. 

Avoid the Courts
Attempting to force the reopening of Los Caballos through legal action would probably not help us, or the Native Americans. We need to work together to forge a mutually-acceptable solution that does not include Los Caballos, at least for now.

Public Relations, and Human Relations
Both Dr. Schneider and Bill Davis emphasized that we need to work closely, and collaboratively, with State Parks, with local Native American groups and others. We must not only show up when there is a problem. We need to regularly be in touch with individuals, in a helpful way, offering positive solutions, providing expertise and support, and even finding sources of funding for projects. Equestrians consistently volunteering in the park is also tremendously important. Likewise, supporting Kumeyaay cultural projects in the park could help us develop a better working relationship with Native Americans. 

Focused Points of Contact and Reporting
Parks personnel are overwhelmed right now with the SDG&E Sunrise Powerlink project, which threatens both Cuyamaca Rancho and Anza-Borrego. In general they are understaffed and under funded.

State Parks staff suggested it would be helpful to designate just a few people to be the points of contact with each staff person, rather than many people writing about the same concerns. Rather than answering many letters, their limited time could be better spent moving the project forward. CEA can follow through on each issue, provide information, and offer solutions to Parks, then report responses and progress back to the community through our updates to clubs and the website. Equestrians will not agree on everything, but we need to work together to arrive at workable solutions. 

Organizational Strength and Communication
CEA’s, and the equestrian community’s, power lies in being knowledgeable, communicating effectively, and working closely with agencies and other stakeholders. Continuing to grow in our role as a reliable source of information will be crucial. In addition to the website, we should consider producing brochures, a newsletter, maps, and trail guides. We can accumulate and share a library of information on area history, and create best practices for designing staging areas, camp grounds, and trails.

More to Come
More was discussed than could possibly be addressed in one article. We will be continuing to add information and resources at our website, www.cuyamacaequestrian.org. You will also find links to the agencies and laws discussed here, and many more. 

Next CEA Meeting
November 14, 2006 (2nd Tuesday), 7:00 p.m., at the home of Linda and Michael Eskin. 
Questions or directions:  Linda Eskin  619 368-4333 (cell) or
linda@lindaeskin.com

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About the Cuyamaca Equestrian Association (CEA):
CEA was founded in 2004, and represents nearly 5,000 people from 30 organizations supporting equestrian matters in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Our mission is to promote and preserve equestrian recreation and involvement in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and to serve as a liaison between equestrian communities and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

More information is available at www.cuyamacaequestrian.org.

Contact:

Peggy Martin, CEA Chairperson
peggy@oakzanitaranch.com

Linda Eskin, CEA Secretary
Telephone: 619 368-4333
linda@lindaeskin.com 

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