Residents got reacquainted with a plan to open up the Hillside Wilderness Preserve Wednesday night when the city presented an early look at what the preserve could eventually look like.
Monrovia had a resource management plan in place for the preserve last year, but a lawsuit forced the city to scrap the plan and begin an in-depth environmental study process to determine the impact the preserve will have on hillside communities.
Wary hillside residents were skeptical of opening up the preserve during the meeting at the Monrovia Community Center, with many worrying that increased public access would create increased headaches for nearby homeowners.
"There is a reason people live in the foothills and it's for the peace and quiet," said Conrad Auzenne, who lives on Ridgeside Drive.
City Manager Scott Ochoa has repeatedly stressed that the land for the Wilderness Preserve was bought by the public and should be more accessible to the public.
The preserve was established after voters approved Measures A and B in 2000, providing $10 million to purchase hillside land for public recreational use. The city developed a resource management plan for the area in 2009 but had to abandon it after a resident sued to force it to conduct a full-scale environmental review.
At Wednesday's meeting, residents were given the opportunity to submit written comments regarding the initial studies of the preserve's environmental impact. The comments will be accepted until Dec. 10.
The environmental impact report (EIR) will explore more comprehensive uses of the preserve than the city initially considered under its first plan. The EIR will look at possibly building parking lots on Cloverleaf Drive and Highland Avenue, creating a nature center, and developing new trail networks inside the preserve.
Auzenne and other hillside residents insisted that access to the preserve is already adequate. He was concerned that adding additional trails and amenities would cause more of a disruption for homeowners.
"People have a right to go up whatever trails there are now but my complaint is they're creating new trails that are moving into private property," Auzenne said.
Jim White, who lives on Briarcliff Road, said that parking on the weekends near the preserve is already a "terrible problem." White said people parking on both sides of the street at the top of Canyon Boulevard create a major disruption for residents.
If parking lots can relieve the congestion, White said he'd be in favor of opening up access to the preserve.
"If they can deal with [parking], I can't see a problem," he said.
Ginnie Bowers, who also lives on Ridgeside, said safety is her biggest concern. More people wandering around in the wilderness will mean more possible encounters with wildlife.
"Our biggest concern is if there's going to be increased use, there's going to be increased danger with wildlife," Bowers said.
Michael Harden, a planner with PCR Services, the firm hired by the city to conduct the EIR, said that the comments from residents will be key in shaping the outcome of the report.
"We take them, we read them, we consider them, and that helps us determine the scope and the content of the EIR," Harden said.
The draft EIR should be ready within 90 to 120 days, according to Ochoa.