A Sea Change
April 2011 - When the lower Tunnel Road gate was left unlocked, Mission Canyon got its first inkling that change might be more than just talk at the Botanic Garden. MCA boardmembers soon learned from Garden director Steve Windhager that the open gate policy will be followed this year by the removal of chainlink fencing, erection of a weather station on Cavalli Hill before high fire season, and the restoration of the meadow. Since December, Windhager's arrival has seen the departures of Fife Symington as chair of the Garden's board and Nancy Johnson as highly paid public relations mouthpiece. In a complete reversal of policy, the Garden began actively asking for the community's opinion with an online questionnaire, and Windhager has held numerous community meetings on the Garden's future. Even more telling, 28-year Garden veteran Carol Bornstein, who was fired when Garden finances were said to be getting tight, will be teaching upcoming classes on native plants and giving the Dara Emery Lecture in the fall. Word in the neighborhood is that the Garden's steadfast gardeners are happy to be back in the business of plants and that the docents have ended their strike and returned to the Garden. Though we all had heard that former director Ed Schneider's house had burned in Jesusita, what most of us did not know was that he was then housed at the Guild Studio and that it underwent extensive renovations to suit the Schneiders. Now a comfortable home, the Guild Studio would be more useful to the Garden, explained Windhager, as housing for Garden employees on a permanent basis than as office space. Use of the Guild Studio as a residence also means there would be no need for a paved parking lot at the Las Canoas and Mission Canyon Road intersection, which was required in the new Conditional Use Permit (CUP). MCA's board wholeheartedly agreed that this would be a change for the better, and this revision is currently going through county Planning. In other news regarding the Garden's CUP and expansion, zoning clearance was accomplished by January, and infrastructure work may break ground as early as this fall. Windhager promises that Mission Canyon Road neighbors will be kept apprised of the timeline for the planned water and sewer roadwork.