Yesterday, a beautiful Monday morning in the Mountains, several of us Deer Lodge Park residents drove down the paved section of State Hwy 173 and parked at the end of the pavement. We were joined by several other friends and neighbors residing on the North side of Lake Arrowhead to offer our protest to the closing of State Hwy 173 – that almost 5 mile stretch of the highway heading northwestwardly from beyond the Gun Club down to the base of the Mountain – the only “dirt” State Highway in California. Even though our local fire services, the MAC and other Government appointees have declared that Highway 173 is not a “recognized emergency escape route” – we, who live here, own property here, pay taxes here – know otherwise! For 40 years, Duane and I have lived on Grass Valley Road – second to the last house before it’s intersection with Highway 173. In the 1980 Panorama Fire, Twin Peaks residents with their belongings packed in their cars filed past our house as they headed for the only escape access available to them – Hwy. 173 – after mandatory evacuation from their homes. I knew that if the fire wasn’t stopped at Twin Peaks, I, too, with my family and belongings would be heading down that same road. In the years since, we witnessed similar scenarios in three other major fires threatening our Community. Fifty or so commuters use the road daily – at their own risk and with full knowledge that the road is winding dirt road that cuts off about one hour travel time for them daily.
I was surprised at the emotion that swept over me as I stood there with my friends and family and looked at the chains, locks and K-Rail now blocking Hwy. 173. The three armed Highway Patrol officers alerted to “keep the peace” by CalTrans stood by – along with the six CalTrans employees sent to put up the chains and to explain to us their version of just why this was happening. Now I understand! I understand what it’s like to go up against the Government. I’ve always felt like a part of our Government process. I’ve worked with state and county representatives in a collegial manner as the Chair of our local Chamber Government Affairs Committee, as a School Board Trustee, as a California Realtor. Now I understand why We, the People, feel disenfranchised – on the outside looking in at a process that no longer makes sense. We have ignored history. We sat by and let it happen. We are warned in the Declaration of Independence that a Government allowed by a complacent constituency to rule by its own laws, will turn us from a Government of the People, for the People, by the People to a People of the Government, for the Government, by the Government. We are there! Now I understand!
Funny, you say, that such a tiny matter in the Big Scheme of things should create this new feeling of distrust, dislike, despair – it’s not a tiny matter to us in our little tiny corner of this big, beautiful over-governed state. It’s a big fat Wake Up Call!!