Public input requested by December 16 on proposed camp sites

A controversial plan to allow overnight camping at two sites in Malibu was presented by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) headed by Joe Edmiston. The Lower Cost Accommodations Public Works Plan for Ramirez Canyon Park, which already has an existing campground, and Bluffs Park, an open space next to an existing park facility, was revealed in a virtual scoping meeting on Oct. 27.

The plan for Bluffs includes 8 to 12 yurts that can accommodate 10 to 12 people each, 16 to 20 tent cabins that can accommodate 6 to 8 people, and 18 to 22 tent pad sites that can accommodate 6 to 8 people each. These are being billed as “flameless facilities.”

Between 30 to 40 parking spots would be added along with restrooms, picnic areas, an amphitheater, paths, a management office, landscaped coastal lookout points, and with interpretive signage. Support facilities would include a ranger residence, medical building, office, and a “flameless kitchen.”

The MRCA says it will have water storage tanks, fire protection systems and provide fuel modification and vegetation management. Development would be in the northwestern portion of the park.

For Ramirez Canyon Park, 7 to 10 tent pad sites accommodating 6 to 8 people each and two ADA-accessible tents are being proposed as “flameless facilities.”

Day use accommodations would include adding 36 to 42 parking spots, landscaping, picnic areas, and restrooms. 

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The MRCA says it plans to improve access to an existing campground that is already permitted by the California Coastal Commission.

Opposition was fierce. 

Malibu resident Richard Stutzman commented, “It seems this project is preordained. Are you guys nuts? Putting camping spaces on the Bluffs. Who in their right mind would camp with PCH traffic noise all day and night? You’ve got to be kidding.” 

Wade Major said, “Let’s stop using euphemisms. Whenever there’s something, you want to support; you call it ‘improvement.’ When it’s something, you oppose, it’s called ‘development.’ Campgrounds don’t have amphitheaters or medical buildings. You want alternatives? Don’t do it. You’re going to have tremendous community objections. Junk this project. Sometimes you need to just care take of the land you have.”

Former Malibu City Council member Rick Mullen questioned the MRCA’s management of the facilities. He said in part, “is not their strong suit. We’re concerned.”

City Council candidate Hap Henry said, “I don’t see this as an improvement.” He said he doesn’t hear complaints about a lack of camping in the area. “That rings hollow to me. What we need is better maintenance of the existing facilities, and we haven’t experienced that.”

A Malibu Road resident identified as Richard said, “this is a very high-risk fire area.” He mentioned in a previous presentation, “the way you were to protect people from dying was to have dug out places to throw people into and put a piece of metal over their heads so they wouldn’t die. Stop it now.”

E. Barry Haldeman said, “This is being planned in the worst drought we’ve ever had in the Santa Monica Mountains. I don’t know what flameless camping is. The MRCA has a terrible history of maintaining the property they have. [Especially after the Woolsey Fire], I think there should be 24-hour personnel there.” Haldeman questioned, “who pays for that?”

Christopher Hudson asked what is driving the need for more camping. “As one who has lost his house to fire in Malibu, the idea of overnight camping at Bluffs is just sheer insanity. We don’t want it. We don’t need it. Don’t do it.”

A 77-year-old Ramirez Canyon resident complained of traffic and speeding drivers who “disrespect the canyon” in his neighborhood next to the proposed expanded campground. He said he’s been “personally threatened” by drivers. “I don’t feel safe.” He says he spoke to Joe Edmiston after the Woolsey Fire in 2018. “I told him overnight camping with campfires is not a good idea. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘Well, we’ll see about that.’ I thought that was a really inappropriate statement.”

None of the speakers at the meeting were in favor.

The meeting was recorded and is available to watch at mrca.ca.gov.

The Notice of Preparation is available for review at Malibu Library, located at 23519 West Civic Center Way, or mrca.ca.gov. 

Written comments will be accepted through Dec. 16 to: 

Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority

RE: Malibu Lower-Cost Accommodations Public Works Plan

Attn: Mario Sandoval, Project Manager

26800 Mulholland Highway, Calabasas, California 91302

Or by email at public.comment@mrca.ca.gov

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