Protecting Joshua Tree from “Paradise”
Gary Gray, Idyllwild, California
Gary co-chairs the Paradise Valley Coalition with NPCA’s Chris Clarke. A former high school math and science teacher, he is a tireless and fearless public speaker who has successfully united a diverse group of stakeholders in the fight against the Paradise Valley development project. This group includes environmental advocates (including Gary’s own Sierra Club San Gorgonio Chapter), social justice campaigners, developers and small business owners. All are optimistic for a favorable resolution.
Joshua Tree National Park preserves portions of both the Colorado and Mojave Deserts. With its natural gardens of desert plants and its vast expanses of rock, sky and silence, this park calls to those of us seeking a bit of solitude.
Unfortunately, a highly controversial housing development project, paradoxically named Paradise Valley, would urbanize 5,000 acres of intact desert wildlife habitat along Joshua Tree’s southern boundary. If permitted, the massive development would cause serious and permanent damage to desert animals, rare native plants, Native cultural sites and the views, wilderness experiences and dark night skies that attract millions of visitors a year to this desert park.
The project, by Glorious Land Company, would build approximately 8,500 residences and 1.4 million square feet of commercial and industrial development on what is now an essentially wild landscape.
This area serves as an important migration corridor for desert wildlife, including bighorn sheep, deer and the endangered Sonoran pronghorn slated for reintroduction to the south. The proposed project would also result in leapfrog development, further worsening Riverside County’s urban sprawl and increasing congestion along Interstate 10.
NPCA’s California Desert Program Manager Chris Clarke said, “The doorstep to our beloved desert national park deserves better than to become a magnet for suburban development. Our parks offer unique experiences that visitors can’t have anywhere else in the world. It would be a tragedy to replace those experiences with one more strip-mall-based suburban development.”
California’s Riverside County is poised to agree: The planning commission voted 4-1 in August 2019 to deny the project, a vital step toward stopping this devastating project.