By KATHERINE ROSENBERG, Editor
VICTORVILLE - About 100 people, including Municipal Advisory Council members, last week attended a Marine Corps. hosted meeting regarding the expansion of the Twentynine Palms base expansion into Johnson Valley.
A similar meeting was hosted by the Bureau of Land Management at the same Hilton Garden Inn location a few months ago, but this meeting was put on by the Marines. It was an opportunity to present their plan to acquire as much as 100,000 acres of the currently protected Johnson Valley Offroad Recreation Area in order to better train their troops.
“It is imperative that Marines receive the most realistic training before deploying into a combat environment that demands split-second life or death decisions. The potential land parcel additions would allow Marines to ‘train as they fight’ as a large-scale Marine Air Ground Task Force, in particular a Marine Expeditionary Brigade,” said Gunnery Sgt. Chris W. Cox, the public affairs chief at the Marine Corps Air/Ground Combat Center.
The Leader first broke the story of the Marine expansion earlier this year, and now that the process of land withdrawal is at the point of scoping meetings — where stakeholders can present their opposition — residents from Lucerne Valley went to the meeting to express their concern over what the expansion would mean to the town and surrounding areas.
“I have concerns over the expansion and the impact it is going to have on recreation and the economic growth in Lucerne Valley,” said resident Roger Peterson. “There were probably 10,000 people camping in Johnson Valley over Thanksgiving weekend, and those people went to our gas stations, our restaurants and stores. And if that is lost, look at the economic impact.”
Peterson, like many others at the meeting said that they support the needs of the Marine Corps. first and foremost, but that they are hopeful that the expansion can go in a different direction.
The Marines Thursday revealed that they have a total of six possible expansion options, one of which is to abandon the project all together.
Peterson went on to say that he felt the Marines should look at the the communities of Victorville and Apple Valley and take a lesson from their growth.
"Lucerne Valley will eventually grow and this urban area is going to be bumping up against the Marines," Peterson said. "The recreational areas are already dwindling, and this would be one more impact on it."
Municipal Advisory Council members Tony Malone and Millie Rader were also at the second such meeting held in Victorville to request that the Marine Corps. come to Lucerne Valley so that local residents can have their opinions heard more easily.
Katherine Rosenberg can be reached at 964-9057 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.