Willow Glen residents say they were “trapped in their homes” when the narrow two-mile dirt road leading into the canyon where their homes are located was blocked by a trailer last weekend.
The trailer that caused the traffic problem was being pulled out of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, which lies on the San Diego/Riverside county line between Fallbrook and Temecula.
The reserve, established in 1962, is comprised of 4,344 acres that encompass a five-mile stretch of the Santa Margarita River, making it the longest stretch of protected coastal river in California.
San Diego State University’s (SDSU) field stations program administers the reserve that provides protected sites for research and education of Southern California ecological systems.
According to Dr. Matt Rahn, the SDSU Director of Outreach at the Field Stations Program, the program had a mobile home building measuring 60 feet x 60 feet on the property that they used as a base of operations.
After purchasing an additional five acres for the reserve, which came with pre-existing structures, SDSU decided to relocate the base of their operation from the southwestern corner of the reserve to this newly acquired land, which was in a more centralized location.
Since they would use structures that were already in existence on the five-acre parcel, they put the mobile structure up for auction. Once sold, the mobiles had to be disassembled into four separate pieces – 20 x 60 feet each, in order to be moved out of the reserve.
Residents said Willow Glen Road was blocked for “up to five hours on Sunday,” as movers began towing the first mobile section out.
“With windy, dirt roads, mistakes tend to happen,” said Rahn. “In this case, unfortunately, one did. [The driver] did the best he could to keep people and traffic moving.”
Not only were residents upset with the road being closed, but they were also particularly upset at the fact that they were not informed that there was going to be any type of road closure for the weekend.
Residents said the closure left them with no way of exit, except for a poorly conditioned single track road through the reserve that is not maintained for traffic and could only be traversed with a four wheel drive vehicle.
When neighbors confronted Rahn about the situation, they said he informed them that the reserve was not responsible for the trailers once they left the property. Rahn said they warned the purchaser of the challenges involved in moving the trailers, citing the experiences they had when moving them onto the property six years ago.
Robert Sommers, one Willow Glen resident, said he found the action in moving the trailer without any type of notification, and the lack of claim to responsibility, to be “irresponsible and borders on the despotic.”
“We are going to do whatever we can to try to stop them from moving out the other trailer in the next few days,” said Sommers. “We’re looking for a land use attorney, and are going to contact [County Supervisor] Bill Horn about this.”
“If there had been a fire or medical emergency, the results would have been tragic,” Sommers said. “I guess if you are a government agency, you can do anything you want to.”
Stephanie Boren, another Willow Glen resident, was also stuck at home on Saturday because of the road blockage, and had to wait until the mobile section was moved to the side of the road to get out of her home. On Sunday, however, she was unable to drive up the road at all, and her husband had to use a 4-wheel drive vehicle to leave for work through the reserve.
Sommers said he believes he and his neighbors are within their rights to try and stop the trailer move because of the fact the movers brought in a small dozer to “undercut the side slopes without a permit.”
David Haroldsen, who purchased the trailers, admits he “may have been lax” contacting the neighbors about the trailer move, and said he “is sorry for the inconvenience it caused.”
“We’re just trying to move the trailer without anyone getting hurt, and we didn’t expect it to take as long as it did,” he said. “At the most, we had a three-car wait, and the most they waited was 15-20 minutes.”
Haroldsen also said his men did not use a dozer for grading, but used a “pick and shovel” to move some ground to free the trailer when it got stuck. He also stated there was no need for a permit to pull the trailers out of the reserve.
Haroldsen said he has left fliers at all the neighbor’s houses concerning another trailer move this weekend, which he believes will take “no longer than four to five hours” this time around.
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