The Mill Valley Fire Department will begin its annual three-day removal of vegetation along Camino Alto on June 2. Drivers are advised that Camino Alto will be closed in both directions for up to three days from 7 am to 4 pm from Overhill Road north to City Limits.
“The idea is simple: reduce the fire fuel load and create a fuel break so we can better control a fire that occurs in that area,” Battalion Chief Scott Barnes said. “We appreciate the patience of the users of Camino Alto while we work as quickly as possible to finish this project.”
The annual removal of potential fire fuels like brush and grasses is part of the City’s multi-faceted Vegetation Management Program, which has an annual budget of $300,000 and features a variety of services to reduce and remove the fire fuels in the open spaces that surround Mill Valley.
Battalion Chief Barnes, who runs the Program, says that 5,500 tons of dangerous fire fuel vegetation has been cleared in Mill Valley in the past decade, including 183 tons in 2014 alone.
The Camino Alto vegetation removal project is in partnership with Marin County Open Space District, which manages the Camino Alto Open Space Preserve west of Camino Alto from Overhill north to City Limits. The district is contracting with Conservation Corps North Bay to reduce vegetation in that area, while the City has hired a contractor to do the same on its land east of Camino Alto, Barnes said.
Workers will clear a minimum of 30 feet of vegetation from the road and up to 100 feet from the road, Barnes said. The total cost of the City’s portion of the work is approximately $3,000, Barnes said.
The Camino Alto project comes on the heels of the removal of brush and grasses up to 60 feet on both sides of Escalon Fire Road between Vista Linda and Sarah drives, just west and up the hill from Camino Alto. The primary benefit of this project is the removal of highly flammable vegetation that poses a threat to Mill Valley homeowners. The City and the District shared the cost of $4,500 of that project, Barnes said.
“It’s right up against homes in Mill Valley, so it’s a very strategic area for us,” he said. “We have a big interest in that area.” The City’s Vegetation Management Program’s budget is entirely funded by the City’s Municipal Services Tax (MST). The $145 per parcel tax was first approved by voters in 1987 for 10 years, and was renewed in 1997 at $145 per parcel and 2006 at a maximum of $195 per parcel. The MST generates $1.2 million in revenue annually. Along with the budget for the Vegetation Management Program, the MST also funds $900,000 in street maintenance and road repair. The MST is up for renewal in 2016.