Plans for overnight camping in Malibu already include provisions to reduce fire danger, a Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy official said Tuesday.
"We’re saying no camping between Sept. 15 and Jan. 15," said Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) in response to concerns from Malibu residents over his proposals for overnight camping in Ramirez Canyon and Charmlee Wilderness Park.
Edmiston explained that the blackout dates coincide with fire season in the Santa Monica Mountains. He said campers will not be allowed to have open flames, only propane stoves.
"I think if people sit back and take a rational look at it, there is camping in Malibu, it’s just private expensive camping. At Malibu Beach RV Park they have open flame, they have those charcoal burners right up against the chaparral. Nobody mentions that," Edmiston said.
He encouraged Malibu residents concerned about fire danger to take a complete look at his plans.
"We’re going to have supervised camping and there’s camping at Leo Carrillo and at Malibu Creek State Park, and we’re just expanding those camping opportunities. If they can take a look at it, they can understand that we’re just as committed against fire as they are," Edmiston said.
Edmiston also said that any plans for camping in other parts of Malibu, including Corral Canyon, are years off, but that an application for camping at Bluff's Park is ready to be submitted to the Coastal Commission.
He said he has agreed to hold off on submitting the application while the city of Malibu considers a proposed land swap and settlement of a lawsuit over uses in Ramirez Canyon.
Under the proposed swap, the city would gain ownership of Bluff's Park in exchange for SMMC control over Charmlee.
Last week, the Malibu City Council voted to move forward and explore the land swap proposal, but outside of Edmiston's preferred end of January deadline. Instead, the council asked City Manager Jim Thorsen to prepare an analysis of Bluff's Park to make sure that the space can fit the needs of several athletic fields and a skate park.
Edmiston said he agreed to the extended deadline, but that he expects a decision from the Malibu City Council sooner rather than later.
"It’s fine for due diligence. This issue has been debated pretty thoroughly within Malibu. We’re just not interested in something that just drags out and drags out. Otherwise, we do have a proposal ready to go ahead for camping on the Bluffs," Edmiston said.
"I don’t want somebody to say, well, we’ll drag this thing out and then a year from now, they turn it down and meanwhile we could have been going ahead with our application to the Coastal Commission. We have an application ready for the camping on the Bluffs. … We’ll hold off for a month and see what you guys are going to do. There is no hard and fast deadline. Things are moving forward."
The proposed deal has been received with both praise and criticism within Malibu. Some parents have voiced support over the possibility of more athletic fields for Malibu's youth. Other residents, many of whom have lived through Malibu's devastating wildfires, are wary of Edmiston's plans to bring additional camping to western Malibu and other fire prone areas.
The group Preserve Malibu has set up a community meeting to find a new place for athletic fields in Malibu and to discuss residents' concerns. The meeting is set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Point Dume Clubhouse.
In addition, a petition started by the Corral Canyon Fire Safety Alliance to ban overnight camping in Malibu has garnered more than 600 signatures.