JOSHUA TREE — The future of the Desert View Conservation Area was the focus of discussion at Thursday’s Municipal Advisory Council meeting.
The undeveloped square-mile parcel on Onaga Trail east of Quail Springs Road is typically referred to as Section 6.
Tim Millington, a regional manager for San Bernardino County Special Districts, told the MAC and public the area has always had a strong community interest.
It was acquired by the Recreation & Parks District from the Bureau of Land Management in 1964 with the understanding it would be developed into a municipal park. Millington explained that at various times in its history, a lake and campgrounds have been proposed for construction there.
Current authorized uses of the area include hiking, rock climbing, bird watching, picnicking, photography and horseback riding on established trails. The area is open from dawn to dusk.
Unauthorized uses that take place are illegal trash dumping, off-road vehicle riding, shooting and camping, including fires. A website suggests the area may be used for camping but admits, “there is always a question of legality.”
A major concern of nearby homeowners is that the illegal campfires could ignite a brush fire, which in dry, windy conditions could quickly consume hundreds of acres of wildlands and residential areas.
Although Recreation & Parks personnel visit the area a few times a week to pick up trash and disestablish campfire rings, Millington emphasized they are maintenance crew members with no law enforcement authority.
Earlier in the meeting, Sheriff’s Capt. Donnie Miller offered to accompany community leaders to the area so they could point out their concerns.
Last year, the county sought a $950,000 grant for a nature education facility, but was not successful. Current sources of money include mitigation funds from development in other areas and donations.
Millington displayed PowerPoint slides depicting a potential Section 6 park with shade structures, information kiosks, an entrance gate and nature trails with interpretive signs.
MAC member Barb Delph was on a Section 6 committee formed about five years ago to explore management options.
“We didn’t talk about kiosks, stages, signs,” Delph said. “If people want that, they can go to the (Joshua Tree National) Park.”
“We’ve been talking about Section 6 the 32 years I’ve been here,” Jim Ventura, a former MAC member, commented afterward. “Different people, same subject.”