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GRF explores grants to create fire break

Residents encouraged to contact local officials in effort

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

(Thursday, Feb. 17): GRF officials are working to apply for grants that could help pay to clear excess fuels from lands above and around much of Rossmoor to create a fire break. To further the effort, they are meeting with elected officials representing the area to drum up support.

The GRF Board on Feb. 8 heard an overview presentation from Matt Greene, a consulting registered forester, and former Rossmoor Landscape Manager Rebecca Pollon about a proposed preliminary plan with options for fuels and vegetation management on 449 acres within Rossmoor’s boundaries. The 449 acres include grasslands, brush-covered land and small hardwood forests, and the possible mitigation measures include cutting trees and brush by hand, using machinery, employing goats or other animals to reduce vegetation and, perhaps in certain cases, herbicides or fire.

The preliminary proposal, which Pollon said had taken a “few months” to put together, covers parcels that almost form a ring around Rossmoor, missing only some areas on its northeastern edge.

Greene cautioned that “nothing is set in stone” regarding the fuels-reduction plan, and that at this point it is more a guide of what can be done. He also estimated that, based on the fuels found on some of the land he looked at, the cost could be $3,000 to $4,000 per acre to properly mitigate.

“You have a healthy forest, but you have too many trees per acre,” Greene told the Board.

A plan is needed to apply for grants from various state sources. And Pollon said that, because GRF is not a 501(c)(3) entity – a nonprofit – it would have to partner with another entity, like a nonprofit or the city of Walnut Creek, for example, to submit a grant application. Many such grants, she said, require applicants to put up some money themselves, creating a “matching grant” situation.

The Rossmoor vegetation-management discussion comes as the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors – also on Feb. 8 – approved a plan for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District to apply for up to $5 million in state CalFire grants to create its own fire break in the Lamorinda area.

The ConFire proposal would build upon a 16-mile, $6.3 million fire break project completed in 2021 by the Moraga-Orinda Fire District.

That ConFire plan, which includes land east of St. Marys Road in Lafayette bordering both Las Trampas and Rossmoor, also includes some land around Rossmoor. Pollon said ConFire’s planning is running “in parallel” with Rossmoor’s, and that the acreage included in the Rossmoor plan could change, depending on how much the ConFire proposal ultimately takes care of.

Dwight Walker, president of the GRF Board, said the best way to seek the grants for this wildland fire safety work is still being vetted. “There are grants available, but we just have to find the right way to do that,” Walker said in an interview this week.

At its scheduled Feb. 24 meeting, Walker said, the GRF Board will hear a presentation about Rossmoor’s fuels- and vegetation-management plan similar to that given to area elected representatives. Walker and Tom Cashion, Rossmoor’s public safety manager, urged Rossmoor residents to call various local and state elected representatives – from Walnut Creek city officials and county Supervisor Candace Andersen to state Sen. Steve Glazer, Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier – and urge them to support grants for wildfire safety projects like Rossmoor’s.

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