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Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

5 Quick Questions With Cal "Poppy" Activist Kate Allen

The Wicked Witch of the West may have tried to take Dorothy and Co. out with a field of poppies on their way to The Emerald City, but in the Antelope Valley, a field of poppies just took out plans for an entire motorsports racetrack to be located near the California State Poppy Reserve. According to environmental activist Kate Allen, "We didn't have much hope when we started this, but thought we had to try to stop it. All the letters, emails and testimony at several LA Co. Planning Commission hearings paid off."

The developer, in his own words, "was met with overwhelming opposition that eventually snuffed it out" according to the Antelope Valley Press and has decided to sell the land to a solar company, which will use it for mitigation lands when its project in the Antelope Valley is approved. According to Allen, "As this parcel is part of the area the State originally identified as the best place to preserve poppies, this is very good news. The State was only able to purchase some of the recommended area at the time the Preserve was founded."

I followed up via email with five quick questions for Kate:

How would a motorsports racetrack have affected a nearby poppy reserve?

The main concern was the noise, and the belief that it would keep away visitors. In a random survey of visitors 85% stated that their visits to the reserve would significantly decrease and 50% stated that they would never come again if a racetrack were built nearby. Another concern was air pollution - both dust and emissions during construction and from racing. An additional concern was that the required change in zoning of the parcel from residential to commercial would be the start of more development around the Poppy Reserve. 

Why should people care about poppies?

The California Poppy is the state flower. Many areas where it once blanketed the hillsides have been built over. It is a beautiful wildflower and worth the effort of saving it. Many other wildflowers are also found on the Poppy Reserve, so it is not just about preserving poppies.

Other than the developer, who proved the biggest opposition on this issue?

Racing enthusiasts who wanted to have this facility built. They claim there is a shortage of places to race because several racetracks have closed.

Now that we know the opposition, who stepped up and did the hero's work; individuals or supporting organizations?

Most of the work was spearheaded by a small group, a coalition of members of PR/MDIA (Poppy Reserve/Mojave Desert Interpretive Association), Sierra Club, the Antelope Valley Environmental Group (AVEG) and individuals. The group never really adopted a name. Dean Webb, program chair of the AV Sierra Club Group, played a key roll in first alerting us to this threat and beginning the process of organizing a group to oppose it. Margaret Rhyne, who is president of PR/MDIA was the main force; and her husband Phil was instrumental in contacting residents around the proposed racetrack site and getting several of them to write letters and come to hearings to testify. (This is a rural area, houses are far apart and set far back from their property lines, it is not easy to contact residents).

Best guess; how solid does the land mitigation deal appear to be?

The mitigation is dependent on AV Solar Ranch One being approved. They are the ones buying the land. There is not much opposition to this solar project - it is PV and being built on previously disturbed land.