September 28, 2011

David Myrick passes away at 93

David F. Myrick in Ojai in 2007. (The Guzzler)
A Talented and Extraordinary Man Passes On

James Buckley
Montecito Journal

Over the past weekend, Montecito lost a writer of renown, a native-born historian of unparalleled accomplishment, and most of all, a friend, supporter, and defender of all that is valuable in Montecito. David Myrick, whose two books on our area – Montecito and Santa Barbara: From Farms to Estates, and The Days of the Great Estates – stand as the definitive tomes on the establishment, expansion, and development of Santa Barbara and, especially and distinctly, Montecito.

Dana Newquist, with whom I had planned to visit David at Casa Dorinda on Sunday morning, September 25, called with the sad news the day before we were planning to stop by. Dana had been visiting David almost daily for the past six months and had noted that over the previous three days 93-year-old David Myrick had “dramatically declined.” He passed away at 10 am, Saturday morning, September 24. David’s nephew, Scott Allen, prepared the following obituary:

Santa Barbara News-Press

David F. Myrick was born in Santa Barbara's Cottage Hospital on June 17, 1918. His parents were Donald and Charlotte Porter Myrick. He was educated in local schools, the last being Crane Country Day School, until he transferred to Fountain Valley School in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He then attended Santa Barbara State College for 2 years before going to Boston to attend Babson College where he earned his degree in business administration.

In 1940 he worked for Convair in San Diego in various clerical positions. Then in August of 1944 he began his long career working in the president's office of Southern Pacific Company at their headquarters in San Francisco. He put his business acumen to work composing letters to stockholders; representing the company in financial matters before various commissions; and researching potential mergers and acquisitions.

During his life he also found time to pen 17 books and approximately 140 published articles and book reviews. His special focus was writing about different locales, including Telegraph Hill (where he lived for 29 years during his career with Southern Pacific) and Montecito, CA (where he purchased his retirement home before moving there in 1981).

He also wrote extensively on the history of American railroads and mining camps in Eastern California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, including the most populated mining camp in the Western hemisphere located in Potosi, Bolivia.

Mr. Myrick was also on the board of directors for many associations--a few of them were the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the Nevada Historical Society, Telegraph Hill Dwellers (two times) and the Montecito Association.

He eventually moved into Casa Dorinda Retirement Community in November of 2003 while retaining ownership of his Montecito home.

His was a member of the Bohemian Club and Birnham Wood Country Club.

Mr. Myrick is survived by his brother Richard Myrick; his sister Julia Allen; and her three sons Peter, Scott, and Edward Allen.

No one knew Western Railroad History better. He was a pleasant and generous correspondent. For the inhabitants and fans of the East Mojave Desert, from Tonopah to Parker, Oro Grande to Las Vegas, David Myrick's 1963 Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California: Volume II, The Southern Roads is the singular history on the region's railroads, referenced by all local historians after him. In this wonderful book can be found the detailed histories of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, Southern Pacific, Santa Fe (now BNSF), The Salt Lake Route, Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad, Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, Nevada Southern Railway, Ludlow and Southern Railway, Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad, and the Guzzler's favorite, the Searles Lake monorail of the Epsom Salts Railroad. The heritage of the Desert West has been greatly enriched by the life and work of David Myrick. - The Guzzler

September 15, 2011

San Bernardino County: Board considers new boundaries

Proposed San Bernardino County redistrict map. (San Bernardino County)

by Imran Ghori

San Bernardino County -- Supervisors will take up a redistricting ordinance today but remain split on the plan, which has drawn criticism from some mountain and Latino residents.

The board approved a draft proposal on a 3-2 vote last month at its fourth meeting since May on how to draw the county's supervisorial district boundaries.

The new map shifts parts of the San Bernardino Mountains -- from Lake Arrowhead to Running Springs -- from the 3rd District to the 2nd District.

The proposed map would also move Barstow, Lucerne Valley and Twentynine Palms from the 1st District to the 3rd District and half of Upland from the 2nd District to the 4th District.

The county's consultant, National Demographics Corp., recommended the option out of five maps considered as the best able to meet different county criteria.

Changing demographics from the 2010 census required the county to decrease the size of the High Desert 1st District, which saw the largest population increase, while adding to the 4th District, which needed to grow the most to ensure the districts are equally balanced, according to county spokesman David Wert.

Supervisor Neil Derry, who represents the 3rd District, voted against the plan along with 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. Both remain opposed.

Derry had proposed two alternatives that would move all of the San Bernardino Mountains into his district -- an option supported by a large group of mountain residents who spoke at the public hearings of wanting to unify the area under one district.

"The public has come out and spoken and been routinely ignored," Derry said of the plan favored by the board majority.

Board Chairwoman Josie Gonzales, who represents the 5th District, said she is satisfied that the plan is as fair as it can be given the different regulations governing redistricting.

"We go into the redistricting process knowing we're not going to make everybody happy; that includes ourselves, the supervisors," she said.

Gonzales said she believes the mountain area is better served by two representatives on the board instead of just one.

The plan also came under fire earlier this month from Rep. Joe Baca, D-Rialto, who joined a Latino advocacy group in accusing the county of refusing to create a second Latino majority district.

County numbers, however, show that Hispanics would have a majority in two districts in the proposed plan -- 57 percent in the 4th District and 69 percent in the 5th District.

The group, the League of United Latin American Citizens Inland Empire chapter, held a news conference to criticize the county plan but did not contact county officials, Wert and Gonzales said.

"I'm at a loss as to why they've not contacted me or the CEO," Gonzales said. "We'd be happy to listen to them."

Gonzales sent a letter last week to Joe Olague, president of the group's Inland Empire chapter, inviting him to submit the group's proposed maps. In his response, Olague reiterated the group's criticisms but did not offer its maps.

Wert said the figures cited by the group in criticizing the Latino population represented in the districts are false.

The board meets at noon at the County Government Center at 385 N. Arrowhead Ave. in San Bernardino.

September 13, 2011

BLM rapped for silencing citizens

by David Danelski

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has decided to allow members of the public to speak during meetings held to gather public comments.

A brouhaha developed after an Aug. 31 meeting in Primm, Nev. The point of the meeting was to gather public input on environmental concerns related to a planned solar development. But people, some of whom drove hundreds of miles to express their views, were not allowed to speak and instead were told to write their thoughts on pieces of paper and submit them.

On Tuesday, after public criticism and media calls, BLM leadership decided to return to a process that lets people "listen to what each other has to say," said David Briery, a spokesman for the agency's California Desert District, headquartered in Moreno Valley.

"We thought we had a process that worked, but it didn't," he said by telephone.

At the Aug. 31 meeting, the BLM sought public input -- as required by federal law -- to identify topics to cover in environmental reviews of a planned 2,000-acre solar project on public land in northeast San Bernardino County.

But after representatives of Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar gave a presentation about their plans, no one in the audience of about 50 people was allowed a turn at the microphone.

Instead, BLM officials told people they could fill out a form that gave them space for about 75 words of handwritten comments, said Chris Clarke, a Palm Springs resident and member of a group called Solar Done Right. He was among those who attended the meeting, at Primm Valley Golf Club.

Some audience members were flabbergasted and shouted at BLM officials. Dozens of people left frustrated, witnesses said.

"I had some people come from as far as Long Beach, and that's two tanks of gas," said David Lamfrom, California desert program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "They gave the impression that a decision (on approving the project) was predetermined."

The meeting spurred official letters of complaint and critical Internet postings on media websites. First Solar responded to the flap by scheduling a meeting for Monday in Barstow to give people "an opportunity to provide input and ask questions about the project in an open forum discussion," according to a company email. The meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Hampton Inn, 2710 Lenwood Road.

The meeting format that last month irritated members of the public is not new.

In recent years, BLM officials considering solar and wind energy developments and military officials wanting to expand the Marine Corps training center at Twentynine Palms also have avoided giving the public a forum. People could walk from table to table to meet individually with various officials and were allowed to submit written comments. The meetings did not give people a chance to pick up a microphone and address an audience.

Briery, the BLM spokesman, said the Desert District officials adopted that meeting format because they had to get through numerous public meetings, a result of the dozens of wind and solar energy projects proposed on public land.

"We were looking for the most efficient way to get substantive comments from the public, and that's why we had gone to written comments only," Briery said.

Rob Mrowka, a former U.S. Forest Service manager who is now a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said some federal officials have been concerned that allowing people to speak at meetings might lead to grandstanding by those who could then encourage a crowd to become unruly.

But Mrowka, who attended the Aug. 31 meeting, faulted the BLM for not even letting people ask questions about the project.

"A large number of participants traveled great distances to the middle of nowhere for the meeting and deserved the right to have questions answered," he said in an email to BLM officials.

Clarke and other meeting participants said the BLM's meeting format suppressed public discourse, because no one could hear what other citizens had to say. The situation made it difficult for like-minded people to find each other and for those who may disagree about the project to find common ground, he said.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said citizens should be given a choice of speaking or submitting written comments.

"Sometimes freedom speech can be a little bit messy, but it benefits us in ways that outweigh the cost," he said.

September 10, 2011

Take a 'monumental' tour of Cajon Pass

Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail Monument (

Mark Landis, Correspondent
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

For centuries, the Cajon Pass has been a primary corridor into Southern California, and a series of little-known monuments commemorate the pioneers who blazed the trails over the rugged mountain barrier.

There are nine unique monuments set in historic locations throughout the Cajon Pass. Each one tells a story of the hardships and triumphs faced by the pioneers who made the difficult journey.

The routes through the Cajon Pass began as simple footpaths used by Indians traveling from the inland deserts to the coastal regions of Southern California.

The first white explorer to travel through the Cajon Pass was most likely Spanish military Captain Pedro Fages in 1771, who was leading a band of soldiers hunting for deserters.

Other famous explorers including Padre Francisco Garces and mountain man Jedediah Strong Smith followed various routes through the Cajon Pass.

The most prominent group of settlers that traveled through the pass was a party of 500 Mormons who came by wagon train from Utah in June 1851. The task of hauling their heavy wagons down the steep slopes of the Cajon Pass was the final test of their grueling 400-mile journey.

The monuments are spread throughout the Cajon Pass, and all but three are easily accessible by car. Those that are accessible can be seen in an enjoyable afternoon road trip.

Stoddard-Waite Monument: The first monument set in the Cajon Pass was dedicated May 18, 1913 to commemorate the early pioneers who came by horseback and wagon train through the passage. Sheldon Stoddard and Sidney P. Waite, two of the most well-known pioneers who traveled through the pass in 1849 were honored attendees.

This spire-shaped monument, listed as California Historic Marker No. 578, was placed along the former Santa Fe/Salt Lake Trail. It is located in a thick grove of Cottonwood trees near the CHP truck scales on the southbound I-15, about three-quarters of a mile south of Highway 138. The monument is on private property owned by the San Bernardino County Museum, and is only accessible by special permission.

Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail Monument: A second monument of similar size and shape was erected in 1917 just a few hundred yards northeast of the Stoddard-Waite Monument. A festive ceremony was held to dedicate the monument, once again attended by pioneers who had traveled the early wagon roads.

The concrete spire, listed as California State Historic Landmark No. 576, is located at the end of Wagon Wheel Road (south of McDonalds), just east of the northbound I-15 CHP truck scales.

Sycamore Grove Monument: This large spire-shaped monument was built in 1927 to mark the site of the 1851 Mormon camp at Sycamore Grove, known today as Glen Helen. The 500 Mormon settlers camped here while the leaders of their party negotiated the purchase of Rancho San Bernardino.

This monument, listed as California Historic Marker No. 573, is located just inside the grounds of Glen Helen Park, on Glen Helen Parkway, .8 mile south of Cajon Boulevard.

Mohave Trail Monument: The Mohave Trail Monument was set on Sept. 19, 1931, on a remote mountaintop northeast of Devore, fittingly named Monument Peak. This small stone and mortar monument was placed by the San Bernardino County Historical Society to commemorate the explorers and frontiersmen who traveled this ancient footpath.

A 4-wheel drive vehicle is required to reach the 5,290-feet elevation Monument Peak site. Take Palm Avenue north from the I-215 until the paved road ends and becomes Bailey Canyon Road. The 5.9-mile trip up the dirt road can be readily found on Google Maps. The monument is located at GPS coordinates: 34 14'43.95"N, 117 21'12.33"W.

Mormon Trail Monument: A modest stone and mortar monument topped by a wagon wheel was built in the West Cajon Valley by the Sons of Mormon Pioneers, and dedicated on May 15, 1937. A small, weathered plaque commemorates the Mormon settlers who passed through this area in 1851. The monument, listed as California Historic Marker No. 577, is located on Highway 138, 4.2 miles west of I-15.

Pioneer Women Monument: On April 16, 1977, this simple concrete and marble monument was placed near the former Mormon campsite of Sycamore Grove to commemorate pioneer women. The plaque is a memorial to the hardships the pioneer women faced as they traveled across the untamed country by ox team and covered wagon.

The monument is located on Glen Helen Parkway at the onramp to the northbound 1-15 freeway.

Mormon Pioneer Trail: This small stone and mortar monument was placed in July 1985 to commemorate the wagon train of 500 Mormon settlers who passed by the site in 1851.

The monument is located on the Old Salt Lake Trail near the 1912 Stoddard-Waite Monument and is accessible only by permission.

Blue Cut: This large concrete monument was erected alongside old Route 66 in a narrow gap of the Cajon Pass known as Blue Cut. The monument, dedicated July 23, 1994, was placed by the Billy Holcomb Chapter of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E. Clampus Vitus. The inlaid brass plaque describes the explorers and immigrants who blazed the trails and roads through the pass, as well as some of the historic events that occurred in the area.

To reach this monument, exit I-15 at Kenwood Avenue and go south to Cajon Boulevard (old Route 66). Turn right onto Cajon Boulevard and go 3.7 miles north. Look for the monument on the left in a wide turnout area, set back among the shade trees.

Summit Train Station Monument: This carved marble monument was placed near the site of the Summit Train Station in 1996 by the Hesperia Recreation and Park District. The weathered text carved into the marble commemorates the site of the Summit Train Station on the Santa Fe Railway, and the nearby site of the Elliot Ranch settled in 1927.

The monument also is near the entrance to Horse Thief Canyon where thousands of stolen horses were driven through this section of the Cajon Pass in the 1800s.

The monument is located in Summit Valley on Highway 138, 4 miles east of I-15 on the north side of the road. It is part of a series of monuments placed by the Hesperia Recreation and Park District to commemorate historic sites in the area.

September 7, 2011

Burning Man fest leaves the desert

BURNING MAN 2011: The Temple at Sunset by Jeff Sullivan

Zelie Pollon

Organizers of the iconic "Burning Man" celebration began this week to clear the desert of any evidence that 50,000 people had just spent the past week here in a transient, art-filled, makeshift city.

As the anti-establishment arts festival and survival project disappears piece by piece from the white sands of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, participants and organizers say Burning Man -- which just had its largest week in its 25-year history -- is going through some growing pains as plans to expand its size and scope moving forward over the next year.

"When you have to be accountable and not anonymous, you change the way you act. As it's gotten bigger we've lost some of that," said Katrina Van Merter, 32, of Dallas, attending her sixth Burning Man.

The event is characterized by massive art projects and the namesake burning figure at its close, with participants heading into the desert for a week each year to build a working city from the ground up -- including an airport, a post office, and a security team -- that tries to be devoid of consumerism.

Burning Man started with an 8-foot structure burning on a beach in California at summer solstice and has morphed into a sophisticated community with year-round projects including solar energy development and a crisis response network.

Black Rock City LLC announced plans to turn its profit-making enterprise into a nonprofit this year.

Participation was capped at 50,000 people a day per a Bureau of Land Management use permit, said organizers.

Next year they're hoping to up that number, gradually adding 20,000 more people by 2016, said Burning Man communication manager Andie Grace.


But as the crowds grow, some of the long-time participants wonder if the desert gathering's principles -- including what self-styled "burners" call radical self-reliance, community, civic responsibility and an economy based on giving freely -- can take the strain of a growing population.

Others say that its growth has helped Burning Man change from a tiny party into an organization capable of innovation that can have benefits outside the "playa," the Spanish word for "beach" that burners use to refer to the site.

The Hexayurt, for example, is an easily deployable paneled shelter, created by Vinay Gupta in 2007 in honor of that year's Burning Man theme "The Green Man."

Gupta has since begun conversations with USAID about using the inexpensive structure in post-disaster areas, Grace said.

The town's crescent design, developed by Rod Garrett and founding member Harley Dubois, covers five square miles and includes 60 miles of streets, hundreds of intersections, and between two and four thousand signs created annually by a Burning Man sign shop, said Will Roger, a founder.

Roger has been asked to present to numerous audiences, including a retired Army group, about the building of what is known as Black Rock City.

Firefighters, city planners and reportedly members of Homeland Security have come to study the organizational and support structure of the complex erected to support tens of thousands of participants for a week, that then disappears as if it never existed.


But the astounding growth of Burning Man has its drawbacks, as some participants struggle to accept the changing demographics and influx of strangers into Black Rock City.

Participants point to bike thefts across the dusty playa, people coming to indulge but not to share, and a kind of close knit community feeling that is simply slipping away.

On Monday, thousands of talc-covered vehicles streamed out of the Black Rock Desert as the festival drew to a close.

Cars, trucks and RVs -- topped with dusty bikes, bright furry clothes and the makings for elaborate shelters -- snaked down the small single lane road toward civilization.

"We used to sit on the corner and wave goodbye to people as they left the playa, and tell them we'd see them again next year," said Dave Roetter, who came to the event with his 6-year-old son, Memphis. "People just don't do that anymore."

There are about 600 rangers who patrol the playa, along with several state agencies and the BLM. And despite the growing size, there is still a kind of citizen monitoring that encourages good behavior.

Accidents occur, as do arrests and numerous cases of dehydration, but nothing more than one would see in any city of this size, organizers say.

As for the missing bikes, Rogers says they're probably misplacing them. Thousands are left strewn around the basin by the event's end.

"It's still one of the safest cities in America," he said.

The demographic of Black Rock City is increasingly wealthy and older participants. A 2010 survey listed 40 percent of participants to be between the ages of 40 and 70 years old, and incomes ranging anywhere from less than $10,000 a year to over one million dollars a year. Several have groused about ticket prices that can top $360.

But there are also a greater number of families, and even very small children, many of which live together in one of Burning Man's largest camps called Kidsville.

The more, the merrier, said Sandy Lyle, 43, of San Diego.

"This year definitely feels bigger than usual, but what we do here is create community, so more people just gives us more opportunity," she said. "That's what Burning Man is all about."

September 6, 2011

Burning Man from Earth's orbit

A European Space satellite took photos of the 2011 Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert from 373 miles above.
By Mike Wall
Christian Science Monitor

The annual Burning Man festival is in full swing in the Nevada desert, and a tiny European satellite has snapped an overhead shot of the eccentric action.

The European Space Agency's Proba-1 microsatellite took a photo of Burning Man on Thursday (Sept. 1) from an altitude of about 373 miles (600 kilometers). The picture shows campers and tents massed for the annual gathering, which attracts 50,000 people to the Black Rock Desert 120 miles (193 km) north of Reno.

The image was stitched together from four black-and-white photos, each of which has a resolution of about 16 feet (5 meters), European Space Agency (ESA) officials said. [See the satellite photo of Burning Man]

IN PICTURES: Burning Man 2011

Burning Man is a weeklong art and self-expression festival that meets every year around Labor Day. This year, it runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5. Attendance was capped at 50,000, and the event sold out in July.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the festival, which takes its name from the ceremonial torching of a giant wooden effigy. The event began modestly in 1986, when a handful of friends torched an 8-foot (2.4-m) wooden man on a San Francisco beach.

Burning Man first moved to the Black Rock Desert in 1990, and it has grown greatly over the past two decades. The height of the torched man has grown as well; in 2009, he measured 50 feet (15.2 m) tall, according to the festival's website.

"Proba" stands for "Project for Onboard Autonomy," and Proba-1's two cameras are indeed largely autonomous. The microsatellite, which is less than 3.3 feet on a side (less than 1 cubic meter), launched in October 2001 as an experimental mission.

Proba-2, which focuses on solar monitoring, was launched in November 2009. Two other Probas are in preparation, ESA officials said. Proba-3 will test formation flying, and Proba-V will monitor global vegetation.