Assistance showered on the Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary is an inspiring example of what can be accomplished by friends and neighbors with helping hands for a humane cause. I watched in awe when Extreme Makeover and local folks performed their seven day miracle for the Almquist family's dream. It's surprising how this dropped off the radar after it was reported that the county won't allow the Visitors Center to open unless Buttemere Road is paved from Phelan Road to the facility.

We wanted a closer look. Heeding warnings of unsafe road conditions, we traveled by Jeep. Most of the route is a comfortable drive past many newly constructed upscale homes creating a desert neighborhood of families whose names you might find on membership rosters at service clubs and civic organizations in Phelan. Buttemere is not an unusual desert dirt road except for the part where the road suddenly drops out of sight as it dips into an unnervingly deep wash. I admit to an adrenalin rush when I was unable to see if the road would be there as we drove over the edge.

At the bottom, a vehicle is below the road surface. Hypothetically: If we had the misfortune of being there during an improbable rainstorm of monsoonal proportions creating an apocalyptic rush of flood waters; our vehicle might be swept away before anyone was aware of our plight. But, if the county installed in a flood control system (on their tab); one million to pave the surface area of Buttemere is not a ridiculous appraisal.

The sanctuary is on a plateau with a panoramic view of open desert. The Almquists are to be commended for selecting a place with an ambiance of carefree open freedom. Everything appears ready for the public. The "non-illuminated sign, not to exceed 12 square feet in area indicating the business name" is at the corner of Elm and Buttemere. "The property is at least one acre in size." The design of the buildings fits nicely into the neighborhood and would not "adversely affect the persons residing in the vicinity." The business is "contained within an enclosed structure." "The business activities do not cause glare which could affect adjacent properties." The care of the animals takes place hidden from the road within the V shape created with the placement of the buildings, thereby "operated so that no business activities can be observed from nearby streets for 30 minutes or more."

All quotes are copied from the Home Occupation Permit (HOP) brochure of San Bernardino County Land Use Services Department headed by Director Julie Rock. HOP permit Class III is required for Exotic Animals Sanctuaries on the desert. Procedures listed on the HOP brochure state that applications are submitted to the Code Enforcement Division, the County sends out project notices to adjacent property owners and the property is inspected to see if appropriate conditions are established for the business. There is no requirement to pave a road to get to an Exotic Animal Sanctuary.

The potential of a requirement to pave a road, if the County deems it is needed, is stated in the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) Application Process; but CUP applies only to "Commercial, industrial, institutional, agricultural and multi-residential developments."

A paved road is of questionable benefit to exotic animal sanctuaries because HOB Class III restricts them to "A limited number of clients ... total average number of personal and business trips may not exceed 20 per day." Keeping within that cap should be doable for the Almquist's Visitors Center because visitation can be controlled when folks make reservations.

Even if the Almquist's requested that their Visitors Center be bifurcated from the sanctuary and treated as a commercial business, why would the county select Buttemere as the route in? Adjacent Caughlin Road is designated as a major road. It's graded, maintained, avoids the wash and is similar in distance to Phelan Road. North of there it will be paved with Federal funds to Bear Valley Road. If the county wants safer access to the sanctuary, why not promote paving Caughin south to Joshua which is only three blocks away? This would avoid the expense to the county of installing flood control systems.