Public Gets a Chance to Weigh in on Palo Corona Regional Park

by James Herrera

Courtesy of Monterey Herald

Carmel Valley >> The public had a chance to give input and recommendations and voice any concerns they may have about the integration of new land, including Rancho Cañada Golf Club, into Palo Corona Regional Park at a community meeting this week hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District.

Organizers said the group of about 180 people in attendance were mostly supportive. They also promised to host more such meetings.

“This will help our region formulate a plan that is responsive and responsible for our community’s residents and visitors of all abilities and ages, and that is respectful of our magnificent natural and cultural resources,” said Rafael Payan, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District general manager.

Steve Noll, principal with Design Workshop, is the park district’s consultant for the Palo Corona Regional Park’s general development plan and was there to provide information about the property, the process and to facilitate the meeting.

Noll has more than 33 years experience – 18 with Design Workshop – including master planning and design for new communities, resorts, recreational facilities, universities and redevelopment opportunities.

Payan said it is important the Rancho Cañada property be carefully included and integrated into the planning process. The land presents opportunities including adapting the golf clubhouse for the Palo Corona park and district’s headquarters, providing off-highway parking and access for Palo Corona by using the existing course parking areas, bridges over the Carmel River and the site’s buildings for other public uses.

“It felt like it was 98 percent supportive and positive to our efforts,” said Payan. “Like any project, there was some level of opposition, but it was very minor.”

A couple voiced concerns over possible graffiti, garbage and traffic congestion but Payan pointed out that those have not been problems at any of the other park district’s properties.

The district’s general manager said he does not see any obstacles to moving forward with the plan to absorb the land into Palo Corona and welcomes questions, concerns and problems so that the community becomes part of the process.

The park district along with the Santa Lucia Conservancy, Trout Unlimited and The Trust for Public Land make up the coalition that was formed to purchase two of the three parcels that make up the golf property at Rancho Cañada.

The first is the 140-acre Hatton property and the second is the 50-acre Lombardo II property, both of which are part of the acquisition The Trust for Public Land seeks.

The sale of the Hatton parcel closed on June 27 and the Lombardo II parcel should close in January, said Payan.

The third piece is the 80-acre Lombardo I property, which is owned by Clint Eastwood and developer Alan Williams, whose Rancho Cañada Village project is winding its way through the planning process.

Payan said both the Hatton and Lombardo II properties are slated to be transferred to the Monterey Regional Park District by late summer or early fall of 2017, becoming part of Palo Corona Regional Park and under the park district’s jurisdiction.

Noll said he sees no real obstacles, more like milestones in the process. The first will be developing a plan the community supports, then getting various approvals needed and finally the funding to implement and maintain. The general plan will provide the road map to accomplish these milestones, he said.

“Those who attended (the open house) have great passion for the property and provided important input that will help shape the general plan,” said Noll.

The proposed general development plan presented by Noll will serve as the master plan for the 4,500-acre Palo Corona Regional Park including habitat and cultural site conservation, preservation and restoration efforts, the continued reintroduction of threatened and endangered animal and plant species and water conservation among other issues.

“The planing process will take 12 to 18 months and there will be plenty of opportunity for public input throughout the process,” said Noll.

Payan said the park district plans on holding additional meetings concerning the Palo Corona Regional Park but the dates and times have not yet been established.