Spitzer’s Option for Vet’s Cemetery: Suitable for Hiking Only

Supervisor Todd Spitzer speaks at a county Board of Supervisors meeting. (Photo by: Nick Gerda/Voice of OC)

Supervisor Todd Spitzer speaks at a county Board of Supervisors meeting. (Photo by: Nick Gerda/Voice of OC)

Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s recent announcement that the County has “received interest” in a 100 acre parcel in his district known as Saddleback Vineyard left out a lot of information as he spent so many words extolling the patriotism of the men and women who served in our Armed Forces and how they deserve his work “to honor our veterans and celebrate their heroism. We need to preserve and promote the important sacrifices that men and women have made to keep our country free.”

In his announcement, Spitzer said “the County has already received interest in a parcel located in Modjeska Canyon. The 100.36-acre Saddleback Vineyards property is located between Modjeska Grade Road and the Cleveland National Forest in the Foothill-Trabuco Specific Plan Area.” What Spitzer neglected to say is this is land the county already owns. They bought it in September 2011 when Bill Campbell held the seat.  I took a trip there yesterday.  I have serious doubts that Spitzer has even visited the site he was promoting.

It’s 100+ acres that the county purchased for about $2 million three years ago.  Some improvements were planned for the hiking trails, but its unclear if that work was ever done.  The road there isn’t the easiest; You take Santiago Canyon Road East to Modjeska Grade Road (the sheriff’s department ought to patrol better; lots of speeders and reckless drivers).  Signs aren’t well marked at all.  The area is rocky, very hilly, full of large rocks, brush and jutted hills; it’s only suitable for hiking and open space.  There are some spots where you could bury some vets, but I didn’t see any visible signs of a water source (family like to plant flowers at gravesites).  Forget a large burial site; graves would need dynamited first and then a backhoe could dig them.  I pondered what might be easier; to fill in an area with dirt so you could actually dig a grave to bury a soldier or dynamite the area and bring in bulldozers.  There is 100 acres there; I’ll guess 15 might work for a cemetery.

As it turns out, a neighbor of mine is a geologist who knows the parcel remarkably well. Of the 100 acres, he believes 25-to-40 acres could work for a cemetery but would require significant land moving via bulldozers.  There is no water source that he’s aware of and he felt the roads to the site are inadequate for any sort of memorial procession to the gravesite due to the narrow and winding roads.  The parcel is 100 acres but the work required to get even half of the space available is likely far more expensive to develop than what it would take to clean up any soil at the Great Park.

We contacted Spitzer’s office yesterday to ask two questions: had Spitzer been to the site ever?  And was he aware this parcel is already county land, because the press release implies the county was contacted about having the land donated for a cemetery.  Staff was unable to get answers from Spitzer through 10:30 this morning (and there’s a BoS meeting today where Spitzer is going to have to defend the Victim’s Memorial project of his that wasn’t supposed to cost the county any money but did).

Does anyone remember the wildfires of 2007?  Modjeska Canyon suffered serious damage.  A new wildfire there could save the county a few bucks to clear all the brush. But the location of the parcel places it in the middle of wildfire central, and remember, there’s no readily available water supply there.

Of the Republicans who serve on the ad-hoc veteran’s cemetery committee, Spitzer is the only one not up for re-election this year or election to a new office in November.  Even Spitzer’s suggestion of the Saddleback Vieyard location for a cemetery and memorial doesn’t honor veterans.  It doesn’t celebrate their heroism.  The only thing it does do is bow to the wishes of Emile Haddad and FivePoint Communities and their many high-paid consultants to have a Veteran’s Cemetery and Memorial *anywhere* but the Great Park.

Has the developer gotten to Spitzer?  Because that seems to be the only plausible rationale to even mention Saddleback Vineyards is to build the Memorial somewhere else.  I seriously doubt you’ll find any wine-making going on there.  .

“Wine is valued by its price, not its flavor.”

The land at the Vineyard is cheap, but to get it ready for use as a cemetery for Veterans will be anything but.  And there’s not enough acreage that can be developed.  At this point, perhaps Spitzer could recommend a site near the County Landfill at Bee Canyon; at least you can turn a shovel of dirt there and it honors the Veterans in much the same way as the promotion of Saddleback Vineyard does for a final resting place for OC’s military heroes and its not near the expensive homes being built around the Park.

There is 100 acres of land easily accessible by multiple forms of transportation with soil ready to turn for a final resting place for OC’s honored military vets — it’s at the Great Park.  Spitzer ought to do what the Irvine City Council has already voted for — do what he can to place a Veteran’s Cemetery and War Memorial possible at the Great Park.