Planning Commission: No hunting at Placer County’s 961-acre Hidden Falls park addition

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Hidden Falls Regional Park near Auburn will soon provide four times as much parkland for visitors under plans OK’d Thursday by the Placer County Planning Commission. But the commission scuttled a proposal to close an expanded park for two days of hunting. The hunt was part of the Parks Department recreation blueprint but didn’t pass muster with neighboring property owners and nearby residents during a sometimes emotional hearing. They cited concerns over the possibility of stray bullets hitting livestock or loved ones, as well as hunters trespassing on their property. “This hunting issue is insanity and needs to be stopped,” said Rex Maynard of Auburn. The proposal – that would have seen two guided, yearly events in the 1,200 acre park, which is located off Mt. Pleasant Road and north of Mt. Vernon Road. The first 221 acres of the park, donated by the Didion family, was opened in late 2006 and the first phase of park expansion could be open by late 2011, said Andy Fischer of the Parks Department. The addition, on grazing land formerly owned by the Spears family, will ultimately result in 30 more miles of trails and ranch roads. Even the Spears family wasn’t happy with the plan for a hunt, which turned into the major issue of debate during the commission hearing. Ron Spears said that while his family was hoping plans for the park expansion move forward, hunting shouldn’t be part of the mix of recreational uses. “The family was pretty explicit when we sold that the we didn’t want hunting on the property,” he said. “I can’t understand why you want to enter into hunting – it’s not what the Spears family sought.” After discussion among commissioners on the possibility of allowing only shotguns and bow-hunting, the vote was 4-2 to not allow hunting. The only hunting on the property would be conducted by trappers or hunters on a depredation permit involving the taking of a dangerous animal. “There’s enough property in Placer County to go hunting on,” Commissioner Harry Crabb said. “It seems to me they don’t have to hunt on county parkland.” The board subsequently voted 5-1 in favor of the park’s new environmental clearances and a use permit, with Commissioner Jeffrey Moss – who had voted with Commissioner Ken Denio to allow the hunt – the lone holdout. Earlier, Moss had said that regulations already in place, including firing weapons near buildings, would provide enough safety measures for nearby property owners – who are allowed to hunt on their own land.