With a horse trailer hitched to the back of his truck, Jim Piva led 15 people on a caravan tour Thursday morning of the proposed emergency evacuation route for Ramona.
“I want people to see it’s possible to take this route with a trailer,” said Piva, chairman of the Ramona Community Planning Group.
Mike Robinson, deputy director of the county Department of Public Works, said signs would go up in the grasslands to clearly mark the way for evacuating cars.
Robinson, also a traffic engineer, said it would be be easy for people to follow and there would be no “conflicting traffic.”
“Once one car goes, everybody goes,” Robinson said. “It will be a ‘can’t-miss’ kind of a thing.”
County officials joined them on the controversial route, as well as planning group candidate Jim Cooper and Ramona Municipal Water District General Manager David Barnum.
The proposed route, which Chief for the Department of Parks and recreation Trish Boaz said is approximately six miles long, consists of a 12-foot-wide dirt path that runs along Montecito Way, through a half-mile stretch of Ramona Municipal Water District spray field property and dumps onto Rangeland Road.
Barnum told Patch that using RMWD property isn’t the hindrance in getting the evacuation route approved.
“The issue is broader than the use of property,” he said.
Barnum said that evacuees may dismiss the proposed route and head onto RMWD spray field property, possibly ruining spray cannons, which may be hard to see in the dark.
“Without spray cannons, we most likely would not be able to operate the Santa Maria Wastewater Plant,” Barnum said.
The water district general manager also said that if the proposed RMWD land is used for the route, additional spray field land might have to be purchased, costing the ratepayers.
A small portion of the proposed route is also on the protected grasslands. The county has approved the small stretch of land to be used in case of emergencies.
Piva mentioned to the public tour that SDG&E has offered to put up three lights on their poles near the RMWD stretch of the route.
While the gesture seems both generous and effective, Ramona resident Carol Angus voiced her opposition, saying heavy smoke and lights make visibility almost nonexistent.
“What works best is delineators or something in the road that can guide the way,” Angus said, telling the crowd that reflective paint is what helped her family evacuate five years ago in the Witch Creek Fire.
Piva said the county would never approve something that wasn’t safe—and if smoke, lights and low visibility were an issue, delineators could be put up.
Piva also said SDG&E has agreed to move any power poles that are obstructing the route on RMWD property.
Maria Biondo Longton, another resident who took the tour, ,said this evacuation route was really just an illusion.
“What we really need is another way out besides 67,” she said. “What’s going to happen to all of us from Rangeland and Highland Valley when we get to 67 at Archie Moore Road?”
Longton said she’d like to see an alternative way out that doesn’t dump evacuees back onto the 67.
The current proposed route gives residents of north Ramona three options for evacuation:
- Montecito Way to Rangeland Road to SR 67
- Montecito Way to Rangeland Road, right onto Highland Valley Road and onto Escondido
- Montecito Way to Rangeland Road, right onto Highland Valley Road, merge onto Archie Moore Road and then back on SR 67
“It’s a start.” Longton told Patch. “I think we need more evacuation options.”