WASHINGTON, D.C. — The senior senator from California has sent a letter to the secretary of the interior expressing her opposition to a proposed casino in Joshua Tree.
Dianne Feinstein's Nov. 10 letter to Ken Salazar states in part, "Placing a casino less than a mile from the (Joshua Tree National) park's visitor center and park wilderness will forever change the nature of the desert treasure."
Feinstein told Salazar that Mark Butler, park superintendent, shares her opposition to the proposed casino and has expressed concern that it would jeopardize the park's long-standing legacy as a crown jewel of the national park system.
According to Feinstein, Butler has informed her staff that such a proposal, "Would impair the Park Service's ability to preserve natural resources, cause significant noise and light pollution, obstruct scenic viewsheds and adversely impact the desert tortoise population within the park."
Feinstein told Salazar hundreds of Joshua Tree community members have contacted her and her staff to express, "A wide array of concerns about the impacts on regional tourism, crime, poverty, alcoholism and gambling addiction."
According to the letter, a petition is being circulated, "Which 1,277 of the town's 7,414 residents have signed."
David Fick, a member of the Joshua Tree Municipal Advisory Council and Morongo Basin Conservation Association, characterized the senator's letter as devastating to the casino proposal. Fick has spoken against the project.
The Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians had originally planned to develop a casino complex with a buffet, banquet room, shops, bowling lanes, outdoor amphitheater, RV park, golf course and other resort-oriented improvements on their 160 acre reservation that borders the park on south Adobe Road in Twentynine Palms.
Promotional material for the project touted the resort as having, "All the excitement of Las Vegas ... only minutes away!"
Visitors discuss ways to comment on plans
A Joshua Tree Community Association meeting is set for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the Joshua Tree Community Center. Guest speakers are Cheryl Schmit, director of Standup for California, and Patricia Mayne, a San Jacinto resident who is working with her community on a proposed 600-acre fee to trust for the Soboba Band's second casino.
The meeting will go over how to comment officially on transfers to trust, community input to appropriate officials and information about other communities with proposed casinos.