Great news for hikers: The top of one of the Coachella Valley's most popular trails, the Bump and Grind trail, has been opened up to recreational hiking.

This marks the first time in 10 years that hikers are permitted to access the upper portion of the trail, which is formally known as the Mirage Trail. 

The trail's top will be open for nine months and will close again on February 1, 2017 for the lambing season of the Peninsular bighorn sheep.


Estimates indicate that as many as 200 people use it daily. The three-mile trail has an elevation gain of nearly 1,000 feet, providing hikers with beautiful views of the Coachella Valley. 

The last mile of the trail is located in the Magnesia Spring Ecological Reserve. That portion was closed by the CDFW in 2006 as mitigation for creation of new trails and because it encroached on habitat that the endangered bighorn sheep use for lambing and rearing.

In recent years, the CVCC has worked with the valley's hiking community, local lawmakers and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to balance hikers' desire to use the entire trail with the need to protect the bighorn sheep.

A compromise was outlined in two pieces of legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The CVCC - a sister agency to the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) - also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with state officials to outline responsibilities in opening the gate.

As part of that, the CVCC and its partners committed to providing funding for fencing and educational materials. That has included educational signs, which were installed in December 2015, with a QR code that allows trail users to quickly access digital information about the bighorn sheep.

The CVCC also committed to spending at least $100,000 by January 1, 2018 to monitor the Peninsular bighorn sheep. About $60,000 has been allocated, and the funding has been used for bighorn sheep genetic and health studies, coordination of habitat vegetation monitoring and field monitoring - all of which is consistent with the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan. The remaining $40,000 is expected to be allocated during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

"The Bump and Grind is an important asset to our community, and I appreciate that we had so many agencies at the state and local levels come together on a win-win solution," said Rancho Mirage Councilman Richard W. Kite, who is chairman of the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission. "With the gate open for most of the year, we can provide hikers a chance to enjoy the trail's majestic vistas and still ensure that the bighorn sheep remain undisturbed during the crucial lambing season."
 

 

In recent weeks, there have been reports of deaths of several Peninsular bighorn lambs in the City of La Quinta. While the authority to handle the bighorn sheep lies with state and federal wildlife agencies, the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission is working with our partners to closely monitor the situation.
 
The CVCC also is working on a long-term solution so the bighorn sheep in the La Quinta area can thrive. Those solutions include an analysis of barriers and other methods that would prevent the bighorn sheep from accessing artificial sources of food or water in urbanized areas, including golf courses.
 
About 50 people attended a meeting that the CVCC held in March at La Quinta City Hall, and the community's feedback is being incorporated in the environmental impact report that is expected to be released this summer.
 
The idea of a barrier has been discussed since 2014, when state and federal wildlife officials notified the CVCC and the City of La Quinta that a plan of action was necessary to exclude bighorn sheep from "using artificial sources of food or water in unfenced areas of existing urban development within or near a conservation area."
 
The CVCC is committed to working with the City of La Quinta, state and federal wildlife agencies, community partners and residents in the neighborhoods along the mountainside as these plans move forward. 


CVAG is a busy agency, helping coordinate the region's transportation plans, green energy programs, conservation efforts and social services. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow @CVAGnews on Twitter.  

Mark your calendars: The 2016 CVAG General Assembly will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, June 27 at the DoubleTree Golf Resort in Cathedral City.

The General Assembly is CVAG's largest gathering of the year. In addition to the dinner and business meeting, this year's General Assembly promises to provide an informative and timely look at the role that government agencies and community leaders have in promoting the region's tourism economy.

The presentation will be given by keynote speaker John Kaatz, a principal with Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, an advisory and planning firm that provides consulting services to the convention, sport, entertainment and visitor industries. Mr. Kaatz has provided expertise for more than 500 convention, hospitality, destination planning and public assembly facility projects.

Most recently, he worked with the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau to develop a Development Destination Plan that identifies short-term and long-term ways to increase visitation to the Coachella Valley.

The cost of the June 27 event is $50 and reservations can be made online. 

Reservations are needed by June 20. For more information, contact Joanna Stueckle at jstueckle@cvag.org or (760) 346-1127.
The CVAG Executive Committee recently honored Jorge Nuñez, a 4th grade student at Cesar Chavez Elementary School who won first place in our annual Used Oil Recycling Poster contest.

The poster contest provides students in the Coachella Valley an opportunity to learn about this recycling program.

More than 100 elementary school students submitted drawings for this year's contest. As the first place winner, Nuñez took home a new bicycle. His poster is being used to advertise and promote the importance of recycling.

Jocelyn Ortega of Westside Elementary School took second place and Brittany Medina of John Kelley Elementary School won third place.

CVAG hosted seven Used Oil Filter Exchange Events in April and May, collecting more than 1,200 used oil filters and about 1,500 gallons of used motor oil.
 
The Used Oil Recycling Poster Contest winners display their entries.