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Geese

The geese at Lake Clementia are a problem the RMA wants to address.

Under an agenda item titled “Wildlife Permit for Lake Clementia,” the Rancho Murieta Association board last week discussed obtaining permits to kill the geese that foul the Lake Clementia beach and grassy areas. The board also held a lengthy discussion with the North developer about the community’s trails system.

General Manager Greg Vorster said he applied last summer to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a permit to use poisoned corn to kill the geese, and he and Bill Armstrong, the Country Club general manager, met recently with Olivia Baez, a biologist for the agency.  The Country Club has fought for years to keep geese off its fairways and greens.

Vorster said Baez told them the corn is no longer permitted because it’s too indiscriminate in its impact. “If they were to give us a permit to take the geese, we would have to have somebody come out and shoot them,” Vorster reported.

Answering a board question, he defined the problem: “The swim beach is a mess all the time. We go down there, usually on Fridays and blow it and rake it and clean it up, but by Saturday midday it can be a mess again. It just depends on how many of them come in.”

Vorster said Baez didn’t feel the community qualified for a permit because it hadn’t done enough to deter the geese. In the past, he said, the RMA has used propane cannons, coyote statues and explosive devices called bird bangers, and it has put strings along the shoreline to keep geese from walking onto land. In the winters of 2008 and 2009, the Country Club hired trained dogs to chase the geese.  Nothing has had a lasting effect, staff and directors said.

“The only thing that really works is a 12-gauge shotgun,” Director Sam Somers Sr. said.

Vorster said Baez wouldn’t consider the RMA’s permit application unless the community used dogs to harass the geese every day for three months. She also suggested using a laser that discourages the geese from nesting or roosting at night.

He asked the board, “Do we want to, number one, spend those kind of monies to get a permit, and number two, if we got a permit, would we be interested in having somebody go down there and shoot the geese?”

Vorster offered another option – killing the geese during hunting season, from fall into winter, which he said would not require a permit and all the cost of dogs and lasers.

“Something has to be done. Something should be done,” said Director Tim Maybee. “Or we’ll have to take that amenity away and say, that’s not a swimming beach anymore, because we just can’t maintain it.”

“They need to be eradicated,” said Somers. “You know, they’re supposed to migrate. They don’t. Because there’s nothing here to run them off. And the weather is such that they can stay here year round.”

Somers said killing the geese would be a year-round effort. He didn’t think getting volunteer hunters would be a problem, but the hunt would require the area to be closed during the shooting.

“I know there’d be a lot of people opposed to it,” Somers said, “but they’re a mess. And we should do something.”

Since the birds come in to feed on grasses, Cheryl McElhany, the only director to express  reservations about killing the geese, suggested it might be cheaper if the RMA had sand and artificial turf at Clementia instead of the present lawn, an approach taken at a park in Fremont, she said.

She added later, in the midst of board jokes about the killings, “I don’t want to be part of this. I think the community would be pretty upset about this.”

In the end, Vorster was directed to bring back prices for the dog patrols, lasers and converting the beach grass to artificial turf.

Board, developer differ over plans for community trails

Greg Vorster

General Manager Greg Vorster argued for the RMA's plans for trails.

Despite considerable pushback from development representative John Sullivan, the board voted unanimously to send the county a map that shows what the RMA wants in a community trails system once development is complete. Trails circling the lakes are a key feature of the RMA’s map.

General Manager Greg Vorster and Sullivan tangled for a half-hour about how to approach trails  – whether to start from a decades-old conceptual plan with elaborate trails (favored by the RMA), or by working from the realities of what exists now (favored by Sullivan).

Vorster said the RMA wants communitywide trails – a Class 1 trail, paved, 12 feet wide – that will loop the lakes and cover the community.  He said this kind of system is missing from the maps already submitted to the county by the North developers.

“There’s a bunch of confusion going on here,” Sullivan said in opening his argument, “and I think some of it has to do with the fact that you don’t have the ‘as-constructed’ (map).” Several times he brought up the fact that Vorster wasn’t sharing with his board the as-constructed map Sullivan provided. Vorster said he didn’t think the map added much to the discussion.

Sullivan said Vorster’s starting point, Exhibit E of the Parks Master Plan, adopted in 1991, has already been rendered obsolete because the Country Club wouldn’t allow use of the Yellow Bridge. Vorster disagreed, saying the map had been updated, and paths redrawn, to reflect the construction of the wooden pedestrian bridge. He produced the redrawn map.

“What you all don’t understand,” Sullivan said, “is the conceptual Exhibit E is only finalized when subdivision maps go to final maps.” He added that a draft traffic study he has commissioned for his development says there are no Class 1 bike trails in Rancho Murieta. The cart/bike lanes on Murieta Parkway and several other streets are Class 2, he said.

“For RMA and the Parks Committee to say there are going to be all of these Class 1 trails is not embodied in the Parks Agreement, and it’s not embodied in the minutes, and it’s not embodied in the exhibit,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan argued repeatedly that the RMA was pushing a conceptual map: “It’s not a given; it’s proposed and conceptual, which means it’s only an idea at the point in time when that map was produced.”

Sullivan said, “You guys have this thing that you want to send all this stuff down the county, and it’s all conceptual until the final maps go in. You’re sending letters down to the county saying we’re not consistent with Exhibit E. RMA’s not consistent with Exhibit E; look at the South (with changes on the map).”

Sullivan said there are areas around Lakes Calero, Chesbro and Clementia “that don’t allow you to circumnavigate the lake in any kind of trail until we figure out how to get a trail so that it’s not on our property, or how we agree to get it around the property.”

President Jim Moore told Sullivan, “The only chance that we have of getting what we envision as a trails system is to take that to the county and lobby for it. Because there’s no other way that we’ll get the kind of trail system that we envision. I mean, we can’t wait and hope that you come around to our way of thinking.”

Sullivan said these negotiations should be attempted in the local Parks Committee meetings, because the county won’t be acting on the issue for another six months.

“However,” Moore interjected, “we feel a certain sense of urgency. The (environmental impact report) process is doing on now. We understand that you have your concept of the trail map with the county now, and we need to get our concept of the trail map to the county, so they understand there are competing interests here. However we work it out, we need to get it in there.”

Everyone seemed to agree there would need to be “give and take and tradeoffs,” as Sullivan put it, to get paths on developer property around the lakes. Vorster said the Parks Agreement says trails will be “built by the developer and then deeded to the RMA. So if it’s going to be deeded to the RMA, I would think that would imply it would be on the developer property, not necessarily the RMA property.”

Caltrans won't put barrier along sound wall

General Manager Greg Vorster reported that Caltrans has rejected the RMA’s request to install a guard rail along the South sound wall on Jackson Road.  Cars have crashed into the wall twice, most recently in November, and sprayed chunks of the wall, breaking windows and damaging backyard structures and stucco walls.

Vorster said Caltrans inspected the area and decided a guard rail would be a greater hazard than the present situation. He said Caltrans feels the guard rail would make it likelier that a driver would be injured or killed by hitting the guardrail.

Vorster said homeowners are responsible for wall repairs.

In other business...

  • Neighbor Eric Cargo addressed the board to complain about Greenfield Communications’ practices in its fiber network installations around the community. He was invited to appear at the following day’s RMA Communications Committee meeting, where he and others offered the same criticisms.
  • Sacramento County will add a left-turn lane to Stonehouse Road at the Escuela gate when it does planned road work there this summer, General Manager Greg Vorster reported. He credited development manager John Sullivan with getting the county to approve the lane.

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