SANTA CRUZ – Citing the drought conditions of the year, the Santa Cruz Fire Department has issued an emergency order closing off public off-road wilderness areas and areas open to the public.
Releasing the information in the form of a press release dated Friday only via a Facebook post on the department’s account on Tuesday, officials clarified that “the city’s trails and roads are open for normal use such as hiking, walking, mountain biking, etc. – track camping. According to the order of Fire Chief Jason Hajduk, those occupying the off-road areas have been ordered to vacate the scene and have been warned by service personnel in recent weeks. Additional written notice will also be provided to those people living in the affected areas, he said.
Hajduk cited “several fires associated with off-road camping sites” so far this year, ahead of an upcoming “extremely dry summer season” as the reason for the order.
“This closure is necessary because of the potential for extreme fire behavior in dry vegetation in off-road areas such as Pogonip, DeLaveaga and Moore Creek,” the Hadjuk statement said. “These conditions, coupled with the number of fires that have already occurred in these areas, require closure until conditions change.”
In addition to the areas cited by Hajduk, the order affects Sycamore Grove, Arana Gulch, and Arroyo Seco. It was not immediately clear where affected homeless people would be allowed to move. However, those who do not comply with the order risk potential misdemeanor charges.
When the Fire Department released a similar open space / wilderness closure in November 2018, the order was a precursor to the creation of the city’s so-called Ross Camp behind the Gateway Plaza shopping center. In recent months, Caltrans officials have staged large-scale homeless settlements at the intersections of Highway 1 and River Street, at Harvey West Friendship Garden and along the San Lorenzo River embankment behind. the Santa Cruz Memorial Cemetery. A city-sanctioned tent camp on the San Lorenzo Park benches, originally planned for 120 tents, has since exceeded its original capacity. A federal court injunction prohibiting the city of Santa Cruz from closing the camp at this park was lifted last month.