Dear Skyline Park Enthusiasts.
Our beloved Park was looking pretty good on Tues., 10th. We had thought we would be mostly spared. Unfortunately Cal Fire felt that embers from the fire could start up in out Park. It would then threaten surrounding areas. In order to protect the State Hospital and the Napa county Office of Education who we share borders with, Cal Fire needed to set back fires in our upper 800 acres. They set back fires on Wed. They came back on Thurs. and set more back fires as they said not enough was burned and did more spot fires on Fri. While some may say that Skyline was a victim of a sacrificial fire, I'd prefer to think of Skyline as being a hero by ensuring the protection of the State Hospital, NCOE and the surrounding neighborhood who was on standby evacuation status. The back fires damaged approximately 600 of our upper 800 acres but were monitored and managed by several fire fighting agencies so that no Skyline embers would reach nearby structures or homes. In addition, the back fires were slow moving, giving our wildlife a chance to flee so we did not experience the wildlife deaths that were seen evidenced in the Atlas Peak fire years ago.
Our staff evacuated all campers Mon., the 9th and has remained closed to day use. While Cal Fire requested we close our main gate, we staffed our kiosk from 8 am until 1 am the next morning for the next two weeks. We answered questions, assured neighbors, watered our vulnerable areas, made our lower 50 acres fire safe, directed fire and police personnel, welcomed fire fighters throughout the day and night with flush toilets, hot showers, a relaxing place for a break, a quiet place to sleep and fresh coffee in the morning. A bedraggled, soot faced, exhausted U.S. Forestry fire team came to our gate at midnight the 9th looking for a quiet, dark place to sleep for a few hours. They had been in our Park earlier that day and knew of our facilities. After I led them to a quiet spot, thanking them for all they were doing for Napa, it seemed so inadequate. This group of men appeared bone tired yet said they were happy to be of service. Every fire fighter who came through Skyline was professional, focused, polite, caring and humble. God bless them all.
Our lower 50 acres was unscathed but approximately 600 of our upper 800 acres has been severely damaged by fire. For the first two weeks, none of our staff was allowed up on our trails. Small fires would occasionally brake out and there are still smoldering areas today. On Thurs., the 19, one of our trail men was escorted up on our trails to start an inventory of the damage. At the onset, they found over 140 downed trees, some very large heritage oaks. Many more trees will need to be cut down because they have been fire damaged to the point they could fall across the trails. They had cleared Buckeye Trail only to walk it the next day and find that 8 more trees had fallen across the trail. To quote our Trail Master " What we found was sad and disturbing. This work is arduous and dangerous." Skyline is blessed with our Trail Master and his two trail men. They are experienced, knowledgeable about fire restoration, safety conscious, caring and love Skyline Park. How fortunate we are to have them on staff. They are being aided by one of our maintenance men. They have a very long, hard road ahead of them.
It appears that no wildlife was burned but their habitat and food sources have been destroyed. They appear in bunches, a sure sign of their stress. We hope we won't lose any of them.
Where we are today: Our RV Park is open. We have no tent camping, no horse camping and no day use. Our kiosk is open from 8 am until 6 pm, but will start closing at 5pm on Nov. 5th. We will update our web site weekly with our progress and our future plans. Our lower 50 acres staff is at work making improvements to our Park so when we reopen, you will see improvements that will put a smile on your face. Since none of the damage the Park suffered was covered by insurance, we are seeking FEMA funds and grants. We are a non-profit, 501.C3 park run by Skyline Park Citizen's Association and as such need to create our own income to restore our Park. Our trail crew are hard at work 5 days a week clearing trees, planning repairs of the wooden retaining structures, removing rocks blocking trails and planning drainage repairs.
Our plans: Besides continuing the above work, putting down straw on the fire burned hills and slopes, looking into seeding, looking into sustaining the wildlife until new growth appears and opening up the tent camping, horse camping and the lower 50 acres for day use as soon as we can. Our target date is to open the lower 50 acres within the next two weeks. The upper 800 will not be safe for awhile and we cannot give an estimate yet as we do not know the full range of damage. On Nov. 1st, a crew of red carded firefighters from Napa City Firefighters Association (off duty), will come in and professionally down trees that are above the skill level of our own trail crew. They will work together to identify any other potential dangers due to the fires. On Nov. 4th R.E.I. will sponsor our first trails volunteer work day. The focus of this day will be to spread out the the logs and branches that we have cut, clean out the water bars and drain dips that have filled in with silt, spread straw over the barren ground for erosion control. After that, we will continue to have 1st Saturday of the month trail workdays. On Nov. 4th, Skyline will sponsor a volunteer work day on our lower 50 acres. Both days will have lunch served.
What you can do to help:
1) If you wish to help on the 4th, please call the kiosk during park hours (we need to know numbers), bring tools/gloves and let us know which work party. If you wish to volunteer for another day or chore, stop by and sign our volunteer sheet. We'll let you know when the next opportunity comes up.
2) If you would like to help with food for the wildlife, call 255-7286 and leave your name and number.
3) If you would like to make a donation, please send it to Skyline Wilderness Park at 2201 Imola Ave. 94559 and mark it "Fire restoration". Your donation is tax deductible. You can also come by the kiosk.
4) Be patient. Skyline wants to reopen as much as you want us to but we cannot do it before it is safe. We are doing the best we can.
5) If you see one of our dedicated staff, thank them for the incredible job they do for the Park.
6) Most importantly, stay off the trails until we reopen them. Sneaking into the park puts you and our staff in jeopardy.
While Skyline Wilderness Park may have been sacrificed in order to secure the safety of others, I can assure you just as the Greek mythological Phoenix we will rise from the ashes this spring with new growth and wildlife babies to roam its hills and valleys.
Dorothy Glaros, President of Skyline Wilderness Park