Press Statement

Over three years ago, we learned about a plan to build 260 homes in spectacular Oswit Canyon and plans to construct a flood diversion system the size of the Empire State Building laying right across the base of the mountain. Residents joined together to prevent this development and save the Canyon’s unique ecosystem, which includes the endangered bighorn sheep and several other endangered and threatened species. We spoke at City Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, held a rally at the Canyon (that was attended by almost 600 people), collected over 5,000 signatures for a citizens initiative to change the zoning, and much, much more. We never gave up on our quest to keep this Canyon pristine for the residents of Palm Springs and for future generations.  We have always said “not one shovel not one house in this canyon”. 

So, we are thrilled to announce today that Save Oswit Canyon, Inc, the City of Palm Springs and the developers have finally reached an agreement that enables us to purchase this land and conserve it as open space. Thanks to the help of the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy (CVMC) in working to obtain state and federal funds, and to a pledge from the City itself, we are only $1,000,000 short of what’s needed to purchase the land and preserve it in perpetuity. We cannot lose the opportunity to save this land over just $1,000,000! If every resident  in Palm Springs helped with a tax-deductible donation of just $25, we would easily reach our goal. Donations are urgently needed, as the developer has only given us to the end of the year to raise this money or they will move forward with plans to build.  

Save Oswit Canyon is a non profit organization and has been and still is a purely volunteer organization. No one draws a salary or other compensation because we believe so much in this endeavor. 100% off donations will go toward saving the Canyon. In addition, we have 2 donors that are willing to match dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000 until Aug 30th, so if someone donates $100 now, it's really like you’re donating $200. We are urging everyone to please help. Anyone donating over $500 will have their name appear in the canyon. Visit saveoswitcanyon.org for more details on naming opportunities. No donation is too small and certainly no donation is too large. 

This is our one and only chance to save this canyon forever. We would not be asking for help if we didn't need it. We only have five months to raise this money! Please we need help. What a tragedy it would be to lose this opportunity to save this canyon.  Don’t look back and regret that you didn’t help. Please send your donation today!

First Major Milestone Reached!

Thanks to your dedication and hard work, we have now officially submitted more than 5,000 signatures in support of the Citizens’ Initiative to the City of Palm Springs! We have submitted more signatures than there were votes for any council member in the last election. This would not have been possible without the countless volunteer hours and generous donations to date. It has not been easy, but we are now well on our way to protecting the natural beauty of Oswit Canyon forever!

WHAT NEXT?

The City has up to 30 days to complete its own verification of the signatures. When completed, City Council has two options: (1) City Council can adopt the Initiative at once; or (2) City Council can call for a special election. Immediate adoption of the Initiative by City Council is a homerun for the community – it would reflect the will of the voters without the unnecessary expense of taxpayer funds to pay for a special election.

YOUR CALL TO ACTION

We need your help & this will be easier than gathering signatures!

This applies to everyone who loves Oswit Canyon, including part-time residents of all nationalities.


FIRST – WRITE LETTERS

The City Council has the power to approve the Oswit Canyon Citizens’ Initiative as written and not waste the taxpayers’ money on a Special Election (minimum expenditure of $90,000). Write to the Mayor and City Council members and urge them to pass the Oswit Canyon Citizens’ Initiative immediately and NOT put it up for a Special Election. Our collection of over 5,000 signatures is a clear sign of the will of the community – the people of Palm Springs want this Initiative passed by Council now.

Send your letter TODAY to:

Mayor and City Council Members
City of Palm Springs
℅ City Clerk
3200 E Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262

Or email them to:

Robert.Moon@palmspringsca.gov
Chris.Mills@palmspringsca.gov
Ginny.Foat@palmspringsca.gov
Geoff.Kors@palmspringsca.gov
JR.Roberts@palmspringsca.gov

SECOND – MAKE AN APPEARANCE

We need you to show up in person when the Initiative is considered on the City Council agenda. We need your smiling faces filling the audience while you are wearing your Save Oswit shirts. If you need a new shirt, we can make you one! We need you to not be shy and speak at Council as well – we only have one chance to make an impact!

Numbers will be critical. Bring a friend or a neighbor. This will be the perfect opportunity for everyone – not just registered Palm Springs voters – to have a voice. Please stay in touch with our Facebook page so you don’t miss the date of this critical meeting (most likely in March 2017.)

Photo by Markku Lahdesmaki

An Inside Look at Vulnerable Oswit Canyon, via KESQ

Oswit Canyon, photography by  Markku Lahdesmaki

Oswit Canyon, photography by Markku Lahdesmaki

'An Inside Look at Vulnerable Oswit Canyon,' via KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 – see below for the text, and the original piece may be viewed here.

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The fight to save Oswit Canyon in Palm Springs from development continues and KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 has a look at the treasures it holds.

"It's beautiful back there," hiker and Palm Springs resident Peter Thompson told KESQ News Channel 3's and CBS Local 2's Katie Widner. "We went to the top and you see hawks, you know, all kinds of animals."

On any given day on the Lykken Trail in Palm Springs you will find people who come from near and far to enjoy the scenery.

"We've also gone to Florida occasionally, but I think we'd prefer this. It's such a natural setting," said Lesley and Decklan Neary, who are in town from Toronto, Canada. "I think that sense of wilderness goes back to time and memorium. It gives us a great sense of how the world was and some of it should remain."

Jason Bruecks, owner of Distance To Be Traveled hiking club, said the area is vital to the area. He took KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 on a guided tour of the canyon.

"I think that as Palm Springs continues on to its future, a majority of the people will be coming into the Valley to have connections to the surrounding environment," he said.

It is a sentiment that he is not alone in sharing.

"If you went by the Indian Canyons over the holidays, you saw that the line to get in there was completely down the road, more than a mile," said Jane Garrison, coordinator of the Save Oswit Canyon movement.

"We need all the space that we can," reiterated resident Peter Bohr.

The view of the canyon from th roadway does not do it justice. The canyon is home to desert lavender bushes, dozens of animal species and even, reportedly, ancient indian petroglyphs.

"The rocks that were looking right through here, were actually rocks that were formed 70-100 million years ago," Bruecks explained.

Bruecks also guided KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 to the Chino Cone at the opposite end of the city, where a compromise between the city and property owner left some of the land in it's natural state and some of it is under development.

"There is a portion of it that is now protected," Breucks said, pointing out the landscape. "What we're looking at in these rock formations here, is the grating that's the tearing apart of that canyon."

The movement to re-zone the canyon from residential to an environmentally sensitive area is still in the signature-collecting faze. Organizers need 5,000 people to sign on before it goes before the city council.

An informational meeting will be held Saturday, Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. at the Ace Hotel. More information can be found at saveoswitcanyon.com.

Save Oswit Canyon - Desert Sun Op-Ed

Oswit Canyon, photography by  Markku Lahdesmaki

Oswit Canyon, photography by Markku Lahdesmaki

A great op-ed piece written by Lani Miller in support of the Save Oswit Canyon initiative has been published in the Desert Sun newspaper; see below for Lani's piece, and the original Desert Sun link is available here.

Coalition presses PS council to limit Oswit Canyon work

by Lani Miller

The Save Oswit Canyon Coalition is a group of about 2,000 Palm Springs residents and others who are backing a citizen’s initiative to protect Oswit Canyon.

An ancient alluvial plane of quiet beauty and ecological diversity, the Oswit Cone is located within minutes from any Palm Springs neighborhood, on South Palm Canyon Drive just west of Bogart Trail Road. Oswit, meaning eagle mountain, is home to a host of ecologically endangered and threatened species, including Peninsular bighorn sheep which have migrated northward from the Santa Rosa mountains due to the increasingly dry conditions in that range. This area, rich in native American history including petroglyphs, attracts hikers, photographers, and nature lovers from around the world. It is well known that ecotourism increasingly energizes the city of Palm Springs and environs and this location is prime.

Oswit Canyon already carries the designation of “Biological Sensitivity and Conservation Area” in the Palm Springs general plan, which sadly, still allows for the building of up to 350 homes in this 256-acre parcel of land. Such development would require the installation of massive levees, the length of the Empire State building, to alter the flow of water in this alluvial plane which has taken tens of thousands of years to create.

A developer from the Los Angeles area wishes to build as described above. He acquired the land in 2008 for a fraction of the previous owner’s purchase price prior to the recession. Recently, when offered full appraisal price for the land by the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, he declined. The offer will stand for a year from the time of initial offer.

The Citizen’s Initiative calls on the Palm Springs City Council to change the current zoning on Oswit Canyon’s environmentally and historically significant land. If enacted, it will amend the municipal code so that the zoning will be an “Environmentally Sensitive Area” (ESA), which allows for only six homes. The Palm Springs City Council can choose to either change the ordinance to rezone Oswit Canyon ESA, as it did a few years ago at the Chino Cone in north Palm Springs off the tramway road. The Chino Cone at the entrance to Palm Springs had a similarly dense development in the planning. Or, the Council can call for a single issue, special vote within a specified period. Our hope is that with 5,000 signatures, (20 percent of the Palm Springs registered voters), the City Council will immediately update the zoning without the costly special vote. But, we need your help to reach those numbers.

You will see petitioners asking you to include your voice to help protect Oswit Canyon by adding your signature to the petition. These signatures, by law, have to be gathered in person. You can also go to SaveOswitCanyon.com for more information and other ideas on how you can help this very important community effort.

Please note, we are not anti-development, but are for responsible development which preserves our last remaining unique local habitats for all our enjoyment, now and into the future.

Help save Oswit Canyon.

Email Lani Miller, environmental activist, member of Save Oswit Canyon Coalition, retired physician at Lmillermd1@gmail.com.

 

Upcoming Free Hikes in Oswit Canyon

There are a number of free "Save the Canyon" guided education hikes coming up in Oswit Canyon that you won't want to miss!

Friday, 12/23 at 10 am – led by Jason Bruecks of Distance to be Traveled

Saturday, 1/14 at 10 am – led by David Lahti

Friday, 1/20 at 10 am – led by Jason

Friday, 2/10 at 10 am – led by Jason

Saturday, 2/18 at 10 am – led by David

These will be relatively easy hikes for a seasoned hiker, moderate for a non-hiker. The hikes will be focused on the area of the canyon that is targeted for development. You will not be doing any significant rock scrambling on these hikes.

Hikers should bring at least 1 liter of water and have good quality shoes for hiking over rocks/stones (non-slip). Hiking poles are recommended for the descent coming back to avoid a slip and fall.  

Allow at least 2 hours for the hike, as the hikes will go as fast as the slowest person.

The groups will meet at the South Lykken Trailhead on South Palm Canyon just south of Murray Canyon Road and north of Bogert Trail. See you there!

 

Image courtesy of Markku Lahdesmaki