Put Malibu’s public safety first

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There is a popular misconception that all Malibu people are rich. Let’s see … on Susan’s and my street there are two career life guards, three school teachers, a Jeep mechanic, some people keep horses or llamas and also have a job in town, a bunch of other folks with families who brave the daily commute to the Valley or L.A. A number are retired. My house is more than 30 years old, needs repairs; our two cars are a 1988 Jeep Cherokee with almost 200,000 miles and an 11-year-old Lexus with about the same mileage. If we don’t work, we don’t eat.

The vast majority of Malibuites are regular folks who bought property here when they could, and work darn hard to keep things together.

Now, about the fire and camping thing: We just had two major wildfires in a single month, the last started by illegal camping. Five young men have been arrested and criminally charged. Incidentally, there was no park ranger there. The rangers who are assigned here are scarce and underpaid and their numbers are unlikely to increase due to the budget cuts demanded by our governor. If the SMMC cannot effectively patrol the areas currently under its administration, how, then, will it be able to protect an expanded territory with the same, understaffed crew?

Many residents-including my wife and I-have had their houses burn down in one of these awful events. The camping issue is more complicated than the lie that Malibuites wish to keep minorities and the disabled away. Recall, each year, every year, millions upon millions of visitors from all walks of life, races, cultures and physical abilities visit Malibu for fun in the sun. They have a right to do so and we welcome them.

So, the camping business is really a public safety issue. We residents of Malibu know more about our local environment than any other group can possibly know. We know the pleasures and the dangers! Look, there are all kinds of daytime activities already available on this proposed camping area: hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, bird watching, photography, viewing the mountain and coastal scenery. Malibuites enjoy these activities along with the many visitors. Don’t we have the right to ease the threat of wildfires in our own city?

It has been said that our proposed modest restriction on local camping covers the entire Santa Monica Mountains area. Just because of us, it is said, no one will be able to camp anywhere in the Santa Monica mountains. Wrong, the restriction on camping would cover less than 30 campsites within the Malibu city limits. Immediately around us are more than 300 campsites, which have constant vacancies in the nine months after Labor Day.

So, what do I recommend you do? Join and support responsible groups that oppose this unsafe intrusion into our self-determination as a city. Put Malibu’s public safety first.

Marshall Thompson