Camping ban proposed

Candidate worried about fire

HALT—Hikers on the Backbone Trail have been known to go off-trail and camp. Hertzberg wants it stopped. Courtesy photo

HALT—Hikers on the Backbone Trail have been known to go off-trail and camp. Hertzberg wants it stopped. Courtesy photo

A temporary ban on overnight trail camping in the hills of Malibu and surrounding areas is being proposed by a member of the California Senate who’s running for L.A. County supervisor.

Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) issued a statement July 10 announcing his idea for a ban on all unsupervised camping as a way to protect the region from wildfire starting as California deals with record-setting drought.

Hertzberg called Malibu and its hills and beaches a county, state and national “treasure” that risks a repeat of the 2018 Woolsey fire and therefore “must be protected.”

Hertzberg and his opponent for the county District 3 seat, Lindsey Horvath, are both expected to posture on a number of different issues as the November campaign heats up. (See related story on Page 11.)

The county supervisorial seat includes all Las Virgenes and Malibu communities.

In response to a follow-up question from The Acorn about the geographic scope of his proposal, Hertzberg explained, “My focus is unsupervised trail camping.”

He said “managed camping” at Malibu Creek State Park or even Leo Carrillo State Park and Beach is different. “They close the camping in extreme conditions, which is the right thing to do.”

Being cooped up because of COVID-19 has made campers “eager to explore the outdoors and embrace overnight camping,” according to Hertzberg. However, given California’s “persistent and unprecedented drought conditions combined with globalwarming induced temperature increases resulting in dry fuel and extreme heat, the risk of wildfires across the state’s forests and foothills, including communities like Malibu, are projected to continue and get worse.

“This is precisely why, at this time, I do not support policies by the county or any other government agency that allows overnight camping under these circumstances,” he said.

More than 400 single-family dwellings were destroyed in Malibu in the Woolsey fire. Property loss was an estimated $1.6 billion.

Hertzberg’s proposal comes as officials hail the return through December of a fleet of four contract helicopters, including one that can drop 3,000 gallons of water or retardant, to help firefighting efforts in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties.

The $18 million Quick Reaction Force is paid for by Southern California Edison.

Campfires are prohibited at National Park Service sites, and California State Parks may restrict them based on fire danger level and environmental conditions.

Still, Hertzberg says safety for residents of Malibu and other communities around the Santa Monica Mountains—all of which are considered areas of high fire danger— “must be a top priority.”

Friends and families in these regions, the senator continues, “live in fear of devastating wildfires every day. and it’s up to us to implement policies that minimize putting them or the region’s safety in jeopardy.”

Regarding how long he’d like to see the ban in place, Hertzberg said, “Let’s get through the extreme fire weather season and then reevaluate the risk to us all.”

Follow Scott Steepleton on Twitter @scottsteepleton.