Solstice Canyon Is Slated to Remain Closed until Early Spring
• Park Officials Want to Identify and Mitigate Dangers along Roads and Trails from the Corral Fire
BY ANNE SOBLE
BY ANNE SOBLE
The National Park Service has begun its formal assessment of damages at Solstice Canyon from last month’s Corral Fire and expects the federal parkland that is part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to remain closed to the public at least until March 1.
The closure period will allow NPS emergency assessment specialists adequate time to identify and mitigate dangers along roads and trails, as well as remove hazardous material from four historic buildings at the site that were destroyed by the fire that consumed over 4900 acres of private and public lands in the Santa Monicas.
The structures include the Matthew Keller House, a stone cottage that was originally constructed in 1865 and is considered the oldest stone building in Malibu.
Also lost were the “silo” and the “dorm,” buildings constructed between 1960 and 1964 by Space Technology Laboratories, Inc., a subsidiary of Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge (TRW), which rented 10 acres from the then owners of Solstice Canyon, the Roberts family, from 1961-1973 for a wide range of stealth scientific projects.
Two of the buildings served as residential housing for seven rangers and science interns. SMMNRA Superintendent Woody Smeck said the employees “were able to safely evacuate their homes just minutes before wind-driven flames destroyed everything.”
Housing within the park is expected to be available for all of the displaced residents by mid-December, following minor repairs and cleaning.
Smeck said, “Unfortunately with little time to react, they lost all of their personal property, including items of intense personal value such as wedding and family photos, china, jewelry, personal papers, and art work.”
He noted that the “National Park Service Family” has rallied around its affected colleagues and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund has set up a special fund within that to help them “replace the personal losses.”
The SMMF has set up an online donations network that accepts major credit cards or PayPal. Checks can be sent to the SMMF at 401 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360.
The effort, which could serve as a model for other disaster recovery groups, is designed so that “donations will be given directly to displaced employees to help cover the numerous expenses they are incurring as a result of this tragedy.”
More information about the fundraising effort is available at SMMF’s website at www.samofund.org.
To address the parkland and the burned structures, the NPS is requesting funding for demolition or stabilization, depending on the final assessments, and general clean-up.
A team of specialists that is currently surveying the burned areas will prepare a Burned Area Emergency Recovery proposal to address soil stabilization in watercourses and a survey of archaeological sites.
A proposal is also reported to be in the works that seeks increased fuels and prevention staffing to meet the park’s needs, as well as to provide outreach to the park’s neighbors in the form of community planning options and education on making homes adjoining public parkland more fire-safe.
In addition to the closure of Solstice, the NPS has placed increased restrictions on the Lobo Canyon area, prohibiting access between sunset and sunrise, an acknowledgement that the park service recognizes, in its words, that these areas can be “frequented by those with less than praiseworthy intentions.”
Smeck said the NPS family shares the concerns of the Malibu community as a whole for public safety during what is now a year-round wildfire season. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the fire. We will do everything necessary to rebuild and recover from this very tragic loss.”