Eileen Jorgensen: Cement Hill has stake in land use | TheUnion.com

Eileen Jorgensen: Cement Hill has stake in land use

The Greater Cement Hill Neighborhood Association extends from Sugarloaf Mountain on its eastern edge, to Highway 49, and then to the ridge line that overlooks the South Yuba River canyon. This land includes the ancestral homeland of the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe and several sites of Gold Rush diggings.

The organization was formed in 1990 during the Nevada County General Plan update to be a voice for appropriate land use planning. We serve over 475 property owners or tenants and actively work to maintain our status as a FireWise Community.

We publish seasonal newsletters, reaching out to neighbors and we sponsor educational and social events. We communicate with residents and provide a common forum through regular meetings of our steering committee comprised of 15 neighborhood area or road representatives.

The neighborhood is entirely within Nevada County, yet hosts over 200 acres of Nevada City’s open space within its boundaries.

Nevada City’s General Plan Vision Statement speaks of a “distinct city surrounded by a green wooded enclosure,” and civic leaders chose to preserve important historic lands within the Cement Hill Neighborhood to fulfill this vision.

We applaud this forethought. The development and stewardship of these open space parcels are of particular interest to us as they are destined to be increasingly enjoyed by the public.

The Old Airport: The city acquired this 109-acre airfield property in 1935. Completely surrounded by the county and within the association’s neighborhood, the Old Airport is two miles from the town center. It is zoned Agricultural Forestry in the city’s General Plan.

No serious development steps have been taken for decades. The city is currently entertaining proposals for a 30-acre solar farm, but none have been received. The city also proposes a storage yard on the site. During the planning process, it does not appear that an overall management plan for the entire area — including fire risk, homeless issues and emergency evacuation — has been properly addressed to date.

Hirschman’s Pond: Between 2004 and 2009, the city purchased Hirschman’s Pond with grant funds and was gifted a 4-mile strip of land adjacent to Highway 49 as part of the Indian Trails subdivision. Nevada City also purchased a small parcel from the Elks to provide parking and a caretaker’s cottage. Through a partnership with the Bear Yuba Land Trust, the 2.4-mile Hirschman’s Trail was created for passive recreation and a barrier free route to the pond. This is now a very popular destination.

These lands form our neighborhood’s southern border and we are grateful for all the work done to reduce flammable undergrowth and provide residents and visitors easy access to nature. The neighborhood wants to be kept appraised of ongoing, sustainable management efforts.

Sugarloaf Mountain: In 2011 the city purchased the 36-acre promontory called Sugarloaf Mountain, also with grant funding. It is the iconic backdrop to the town and the eastern boundary of our neighborhood.

The homeless population that had been living there was recently relocated, as they had created an imminent safety and wildfire risk. This was accomplished through a model collaboration of the city and county using specially designated federal funds. We look forward to continued communication with city, county and The Bear Yuba Land Trust as an acknowledged stakeholder in this project.

The Greater Cement Hill Neighborhood Association incorporates city, county and state lands, as well as approximately 23 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property. These 23 acres have been untouched for decades and are in great need of fire abatement.

We have chosen to live in this wildland-urban interface, and we are working to reduce the heightened fire risk within our neighborhood. As private landowners, we are responsible for our properties and we want to see the same responsibility demonstrated for the approximately 230 acres of publicly held lands that we also value and that impact our safety.

The association looks forward to working collaboratively with all relevant agencies, especially the newly formed Fire Safety Advisory Council. We ask that our neighborhood be included in any comprehensive management plans developed by the city for their open spaces in our environs.

Through our relationships, we will foster responsible stewardship for future generations.

This was written by Eileen Jorgensen and Susan Weisner, on behalf of (and signed by) the steering committee of the Greater Cement Hill Neighborhood Association in Nevada City.

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