What is Pollock Pines? It is a postal zip code; a census tract designation; a spot on the weather maps of the local TV stations; where the Jenkinson’s Lake recreation area is located; the last opportunity to buy groceries and fuel, etc. before entering the Eldorado National Forest on the way to South Lake Tahoe; and a key part of the historical richness of the western slope of the Sierra Nevadas, e.g. the Pony Express, immigrant and emigrant wagon trails, gold mining, lumber, water management and more. It is not a city or a town and is readily apparent to be rural in character. It at present does not have a political boundary. Its representation is, in fact, apportioned among three of the five members of the Board of Supervisors. But is it a community?
The answer is yes. However, one must understand that the answer to this question would depend on the definition of community and how the term is supposed to be used. Pollock Pines has become part of this definition issue, because Pollock Pines’ residents, since December 2012, have been conducting a series of meetings to define its Community Identity in order to set up a community advisory council consistent with the county’s General Plan. This has become difficult to do when the county Board of Supervisors cannot agree on what the term “Community Identity” means as it applies to the county’s General Plan for economic development (“Planning jargon stumps supes” — May 24 front page article in the Mountain Democrat by Chris Daley).
Specifically, the General Plan for El Dorado County allows “existing rural and urban communities” to advise the county‘s Board of Supervisors, Planning Department, Economic Development Committee, and a Design Review Committee specifically appointed for a community, on how to ‘maintain and enhance’ … both the natural setting and built elements which contribute to the quality of life, economic health and community pride of county residents.” Further, (Policy 22.214.171.124) “The county shall develop community design guidelines in concert with members of each community which will detail specific qualities and features unique to the community as planning staff and funds are available. Each plan shall contain design guidelines to be used in project site review of all discretionary project permits. Such plans may be developed for Rural Centers to the extent possible. The guidelines shall include, but not be limited to, the following: Historic preservation; Streetscape elements and improvements; Signage; Maintenance of existing scenic road and riparian corridors; Compatible architectural design; Designs for landmark land uses and; Outdoor art.”
Those residents of Pollock Pines who took the time to participate in these meetings were told that this community advisory council process would allow our rural community to organize itself to provide coordinated and comprehensive input to the various county government agencies and officials whenever they make decisions affecting our economic health, community identity and quality of life. This council was not to be another layer of government and not a source of more rules and regulations.
At the last meeting in Pollock Pines on May 15, seven residents volunteered that they were willing be on this advisory council. This followed from the prior meetings’ identification of a common interest of residents in maintaining the area as “Nature’s Wonderland.” The discussions centered on our desire to live the rural life in an area of natural beauty with opportunities for employment consistent with the areas’ historical heritage and recreational opportunities; reasonable expectations for small businesses to succeed with local employment growth and interactions with government to maintain our public infrastructure, schools and levels of public safety without overwhelming rules and regulations.
This is not to say that there was not some level of disagreement during the meetings about whether the process used in conducting meetings would bias the results and whether the dates, times and purposes of the meetings were fully communicated to everybody in the area. My view is that when people stop looking at every action as a part of a negative conspiracy and focus on the results, not the process, then they will see that the definition and description of the Pollock Pines community that resulted from these meetings is honest, complete and positive. I, and several other residents who volunteered to be on the council, signed up because we believe there is now a workable base to identify our “Community Identity” as it applies to the county’s General Plan for economic development. Further, when one sees who is intended to be represented by this advisory council, there is no bias but instead an inclusive grouping of interests vital to the area. It was concluded that the committee could exist with volunteer members representing the interests and concerns of seniors/retired persons; educational and activities for our youth; local businesses and chamber of commerce; community-based service organizations; the faith-based community; residents of mobile home parks; homeowners’ associations; recreational and historical interest organizations; our Community Center and others (an at-large member).
Regarding concerns about effective communications, I believe that a regularly scheduled meeting of such a council, with its extensive representation, would provide a certainty of time and place for the various elements of our community to express and exchange views. This also would go a long way in improving communication about, coordination among and participation in community events.
Pollock Pines is already a place that celebrates July Fourth with a patriotic parade, along with historic celebrations of the Wagon Train and the Pony Express; has local businesses and community service and faith-based organizations providing charitable support via food kitchens, senior and youth activities including maintaining our community center; has volunteer beautification projects planting flowers in public areas; conducts community trash clean-up days and has demonstrated the capacity to organize projects supporting increased patronage of the local businesses that provide necessary services without having us “go down the hill” to the larger urban areas.
At 6 p.m. on June 24 there will be a local Pollock Pines meeting at the Community Center to discuss the establishment of the advisory council. We understand that the Board of Supervisors will have on the agenda a meeting scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on June 27 with a discussion on the role of communities in the General Plan which would necessarily include the definition of “Community Identity.” It is obvious that I believe that the development of a community advisory council to work with local government and other entities can only enhance our community identity. Those of us who complain about how various levels of government are unresponsive to our needs lose credibility with me if they don’t cooperatively participate when the opportunity arises. I see these meetings as an opportunity for our community to influence our future and I encourage Pollock Pine residents, with all points of view, to attend both meetings.
Tom Schulz is a resident of Pollock Pines, a former director at the U.S. Government Accountability Office and a volunteer for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).