October 27, 2011

PG and E Helps Allensworth Lower Energy Cost

Working through its local government partnership program and a charitable grant PG and E (Pacific Gas and Electric Company) launched an energy-efficiency project in the communities of Allensworth and Alpaugh. PG and E contracted Staples and Associates to convert the T12 fluorescent light fixtures to more efficient T8 fixtures in the Allensworth Community Center, the Allensworth Christian Church, and the Allensworth Elementary School. The T12 ballast and bulbs inside of each fixture were replaced with more efficient T8 electromagnetic ballasts and energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs.

Robert Cardenas, superintendent of the Allensworth Elementary School District, told Tracy Correa, Writer for the PG and E "Currents" web site, that “he hopes to save up to 20 percent on utility costs, which would mean the school could save more than $5,000 a year.” PG and E is upgrading the light fixtures and making other energy saving improvement at no cost to the Allensworth residents.

Stephen Hill, Sr.

October 25, 2011

CSPF Comments on High-Speed Rail Route

Traci Verardo-Torres, vice-president of Government Affairs for the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF), has generously given us permission to publish these excerpts from the CSPF’s comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (DEIR) for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section of the California High-Speed Rail.

In her October 11, 2011 letter to Tom Umberg, chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority board of directors, Verarado-Torres addressed the impact that the High-Speed Rail will have on Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has announced that it will not release a Final Environment Impact Report for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield section of the High-Speed Rail as planned in January but will issue a Revised DEIR in the spring of 2012. There will be another official comment period following the release of the revised DEIR.

Stephen Hill, Sr.


Given the cultural and historical importance of Allensworth and the legislative intent to protect the park, CSPF is concerned that the proposed Project will have long lasting, negative impacts to Allensworth. Specifically, the proposed Project will impact the historical character at Allensworth, create barriers to public access and negatively impact the visitors experience at the park. In addition to those concerns, we do not believe the DEIR adequately analyzed all proposed alternatives presented. Our concerns are outlined below.

Degradation of the historical character of Allensworth

The high speed train operation will result in noise impacts to Allensworth, but the DEIR does not present a clear and comprehensive analysis of the anticipated noise impacts to the park. Of the noise measurement sites, only two were selected just southeast of Allensworth. It is difficult to verify in the DEIR if the locations are sufficient to determine the extent of the noise that will be increased at the park. The noise analysis does not consider the wide use of activities by visitors at the park. Specifically, what impacts will occur to overnight visitors at the campgrounds? Or impacts to day-use visitors that walk through the historical district? What are impacts to the numerous special events that take place throughout the year? These questions are not examined in the DEIR. Further noise analysis and testing is required near visitor utilized areas to understand the impact to Allensworth.

Of the mitigation measures suggested in the DEIR, none sufficiently reduce the impact of noise to Allensworth to less than significant. Installing sound barriers is not proposed at Allensworth, which is inappropriate given the unique park characteristics. If sound barriers were constructed, a new modern feature would be introduced that will lead to degradation of the visual character at Allensworth and are therefore not an applicable mitigation measure.


Both alternatives studied in the DEIR create significant visual impacts.

The Burlington North Santa Fe Alignment Alternative (“BNSF alternative”) track would be located less than 100 feet from the park, introducing a new contemporary and disruptive feature at Allensworth. This is reinforced by the analysis in the DEIR itself, “24-foot-high OCS system components and wires, right-of-way fencing, and high speed rail trains would introduce distinctly modern industrial elements into the visual foreground that would alter the character of the site and lower visual quality” (DEIR, p. 3.16.61).

The Allensworth bypass alignment would position the park between two rail lines and DEIR concludes would be visible at the park. Unfortunately, the DEIR presents only one visual simulation from Allensworth. Additional simulations at other locations at the park, such as the campground or other historical structures, are required to fully analyze the visual impacts to the park.

Public Access
Park entrance

It is unclear whether the BNSF alternative will require the closure and moving of the entrance. The DEIR notes in the Transportation section, “Twenty three of 25 miles of track would be at grade within Tulare County, on the east side of BSNF Railway right-of-way. Elevated segments are at the Tule River and Alpaugh Railroad spur. Local roads would be maintained, avoided, or realigned except for closures of Angola Drive and Palmer Avenue” (DEIR, p. 3.2-50).

Does the closure of Palmer Avenue mean a new park entrance will be created? This is a significant issue that is not sufficient addressed in the DEIR. In the Appendix 2-B railroad crossing, line No 70, Palmer Road is listed as closing. Under line No 71 for Avenue 24, an above road crossing is proposed. This seems to suggest that access to the park will be provided from a southern access entrance. It is unclear why the potential closure of the current public access and creation of a new entrance to the park is only disclosed in a few areas in the DEIR and appears to be hidden. If the primary entrance to the park is moved, numerous questions emerge:
  • Will the new entrance impose any new visual or noise degradation to the park?
  • When will the permanent closure occur?
  • How will the road closure be implemented?
Changes of public access to Allensworth are critical to understand when evaluating the proposed Project. The DEIR is insufficient and unclear on these points.


Construction of the BNSF alternative will result in public access disturbances and impediments to Allensworth. As noted above, the park entrance is located at Palmer Avenue, which is part of the land that would be acquired as part of the alternative. If the BNSF alternative is selected, it is critical that public access to Allensworth remains accessible. Without the opportunity to review a draft or final plan for construction, CSPF emphasizes that every possible attempt should be made to minimize the overall impact during construction.


The DEIR concludes that when the project comes to fruition, the current Amtrak line that services Allensworth will be adjusted in response to the completion of the proposed Project. It is not clear from the DEIR if the proposed Project will result in the discontinuance of specific rail stops at Allensworth. Transportation planning should seek to maximize, not eliminate public transportation options to outdoor recreation and culturally significant opportunities, and CSPF urges the continuance of park-specific Amtrak service to Allensworth.

DEIR fails to adequately analyze all the proposed alignments

The DEIR presents three alternative alignments in consideration to Allensworth, but only two are analyzed in the environmental review documents. The utilization of the existing corridor with BNSF, and the Allensworth Bypass that would go east of the park are examined as potential alternative alignments of the proposed Project. Another option suggested, but not analyzed, is to relocate the BNSF railway adjacent to the eastern side of the Allensworth Bypass. There is a lack of a full discussion of this alternative. The DEIR reports this alignment has not been discussed with BNSF, but that does not preclude the need to analyze potential impacts from the proposed alternative if mentioned as a possible alternative alignment in the draft document.

October 19, 2011

Allensworth Hub for Organic Vegetables

State Park interpreter Steven Ptomey and Allensworth residents
 standing in front of the restored living agricultural display.

Depending on the time of year that future visitors come to Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park they could see rows of freshly plowed soil, seeding starting to break through the top soil, or red tomatoes, green peppers and other vegetables in the park’s living agricultural display. The display is the result of the California Department of Parks and Recreation entering into a partnership with the residents of Allensworth, The South Central Farmers Coop and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE). As part of the Department of Parks Volunteer In Parks program Allensworth community residents will plant and maintain a living agricultural display at Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

According to state park interpreter Steven Ptomey the restored display will enable the park staff to show visiting children how early Allensworth residents grew their own food.

In an October 10, 2011 news release Allensworth resident and CRPE advisory board member Denise Kadara said “The community believes that this endeavor complements the economic development effort that has been underway in Allensworth since 2008, and continues our overall quest to make Allensworth the hub for organic vegetables in Tulare County.” In October of 2010 the residents planted an organic community garden at the Allensworth Community Center. Earlier this month the Tulare County Farm Bureau’s education committee awarded the Allensworth Elementary School a $250 renewal grant to help them maintain their garden. In addition to the awarding the renewal grant the Farm Bureau gives the school access to the California Foundation for Ag in the Classroom, advice from Master Gardeners, and the bureau’s Beyond-the-Farm trailer.

With the assistance of the South Central Farmers Coop the Allensworth residents will sell the vegetables from the agricultural display, thereby producing revenue for community improvements.

For more information about the park’s living agricultural display contact Steven Ptomey at (661) 849-3433 or sptomey@parks.ca.gov.

Stephen Hill, Sr.

October 12, 2011

Governor Signs AB 1077

In 2007, when the public found out that the Tulare County Board of Supervisors was in the process of approving two massive dairies next Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, bus loads of park supporters turned out for the public hearings. Despite the over whelming opposition, the board of supervisors approved the two dairies. Jerry Brown, then California Attorney General, suited Tulare County for not adequately addressing the dairies environmental impacts. At the same time 62nd District Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter introduced a bill to create a 2.5-mile buffer zone around the park. In the end the state paid the farmer $3.5 million not to build the dairies, and Assembly Member Carter withdrew her bill.

Feeling victorious, after having stopped the construction of the two dairies, everyone turned their attention to the 2008 centennial. But, Assembly Member Carter realized that we might not be as fortunate the next time the state park is threaten by incompatible development. So on February 19, 2010, she introduced Assembly Bill 2356, which would have prohibited development that is incompatible with the historical or recreational significance of Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. She later withdrew the bill because it could have affected the construction of the California High-Speed Rail.

Not one to easily give up, Assembly Member Carter introduced Assembly Bill 1077 on February 18, 2011. In addition to prohibiting incompatible development within 2.5 miles of Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park this new bill requires that a feasibility study be preformed to consider the state park for designation as a National Historic Landmark.

After an hour long debate; where former Tulare County Board of Supervisors member, Connie Conway spoke out again the bill; the bill passed in the assembly 47-25 votes on June 2, 2011. The bill passed the Senate on August 22, 2011, but not before it was amended.

The section “This bill would prohibit a person from developing any of the area within 2 1/2 miles of the boundary of Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park in Tulare County in a manner that would be incompatible with the historic or recreational significance of the park.” was amended to read “This bill would require the Department of Parks and Recreation to notify the State Park and Recreation Commission of any proposed development that may substantially impact the historical, cultural, or recreational significance of the Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, and would require the commission, upon receipt of that notification to hold a duly noticed public hearing to receive public input regarding the potential impacts of the proposed development on the park. The bill would require the commission, following the public hearing, to submit, in writing, to the department a summary of its conclusions on the potential park impacts that may be caused by the proposed development for transmission by the department to the appropriate local government entities.”

Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1077 on Friday, October 8th.

I commend Assembly Member Carter for introducing AB 1077 and seeing it through the Assembly and Senate. Special thanks go out to Friends of Allensworth Statewide President Thomas Stratton for making sure that the Friends of Allensworth was listed as a resisted supporter of the bill.

Please take a minute to thank Assembly Member Carter for her commitment to protecting Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. You can leave a comment on her website or write her at:

Capitol Office:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0062
Tel: (916) 319-2062
Fax: (916) 319-2162

District Office:

335 N. Riverside Ave.
Rialto, CA 92376
Tel: (909) 820-5008
Fax: (909) 820-5098

Stephen Hill, Sr.

October 05, 2011

The Suspense Will be Over Soon

Assembly Bill 1077 (Carter): State parks: Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is one of the 344 bills waiting for Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. He has until midnight Sunday, October 9th to sign or veto these bills.

On Tuesday, the Governor Brown signed the California State Parks Foundation sponsored Assembly Bill 42 (Huffman) which will allow nonprofit organizations to enter into operating agreements with the Department of Parks and Recreation. Letting nonprofit organizations partner with the Department of Parks and Recreation could enable some of the state parks on the May closure list remain open.

I will post an update on AB 1077 as soon as I hear something, keep your fingers crossed.

Stephen Hill, Sr.

October 02, 2011

“Allensworth: A Piece of the World” Airs Statewide

Thanks to the efforts of Carolyn McIntyre, President of the California Cable & Telecommunication Association, the 48 minute video “Allensworth: A Piece of the World,” will air statewide Monday October 3rd through Monday, November, 7th.

The video is airing on the California Channel, see list below for local channels. The video is also available for viewing in the archives of The California Channel’s web site.

If you have any questions or need additional information contact me at (916) 653-6032 or Benjamin@water.ca.gov.

More good news! The California Cable & Telecommunication Association is also a sponsor of this year’s “Colonel Allensworth 4th Annual 5K Run Walk for Health!” which will be a part of the October 8, 2011, “Annual Rededication” for the town. The event will begin at 9:00 a.m. All of the funds raised will be donated to the park.

Interested participants can register on line at http://www.active.com/event_detail.cfm?event_id=1926413 and/or visit www.parks.ca.gov/allensworth to download and complete a registration form and mail it to:

Colonel Allensworth 4th Annual 5K Run Walk For Health
P.O. Box 192046
Sacramento, Ca 95819

Supporters can also participate by being a virtual runner / walker and receive a T-shirt by mail (see registration form).

Dorothy Benjamin