Sunday, August 23, 2015

Spur Ranch Road Mid-Summer Update

Dear Neighbor,

Here’s a mid-summer report on Spur Ranch Road and your road association activities.


A. Thank-You

            We are extremely grateful for the financial support of the SRR community during the past year. Our overall contribution rate is about 90%, which is remarkable, given that contributions to the road association are voluntary. I’d like particularly to acknowledge the support from the residents who live and own property west of the RR tracks. This past year, we achieved a 100% participation rate from those residences and lot owners. Given the maintenance needs of the west part of the road, this support has been extraordinarily helpful. So thanks everybody!

            Further, following our message to the community urging drivers to drive slowly, we’ve noticed subjectively that speeding along the road has decreased. Driving at or below the posted 30 mph speed limit greatly minimizes washboarding and excessive dust. We still need to stay on top of this issue, but we’re very appreciative of the positive community cooperation.


B. Road Condition

            East of the RR tracks: Several weeks after grading and rolling the road in late May, the road condition is generally satisfactory. Our plan is to add basecourse to the worst parts of the road, as our budget allows, and this strategy appears to have help stabilize the road against rapid deterioration. Our impression is that the Bionic Soil treatment, although not as impressive as we expected, has helped stabilize the road against the large amount of rainfall we’ve experienced during the past two months. Shallow washboards are developing, but the spacing between washboard crests is short, suggesting that the base under the road is still quite hard and has not been degraded by rain. Our current plans call for one further grading at the conclusion of the monsoon season.

            West of the RR tracks: In May, we performed significant maintenance to the road between the RR Tracks and Compadres, adding short segments of basecourse to the sections most badly damaged by last year’s flooding. During the past two months, there have been times when Compadres (the alternate entrance to the residences at the west end of the road) became impassible, so in the interests of safety, the SRRA directors felt it was important to keep SRR open and drivable. It is important to understand that the road, though passable, is still very vulnerable to flooding and washout. The drainage problems and general lack of structural integrity along lengths are a continuing worry. So far this season, we’ve been lucky that the rains have not washed out the road, as they did last year.


C. Budget Report:

            Our current balance at the end of July is about $4800. We have budgeted $2500 for one more routine grading after the monsoon season, and $500 for snow removal and miscellaneous expenses during the winter months, leaving us with a hoped-for year end balance of $1800. I say “hoped-for,” because we don’t have money for any substantial unplanned expenses. For example, last year’s late autumn flooding west of the RR tracks required about $7500 of emergency repairs in order to keep the road open. Should we experience comparable problems this year, we’ll have no choice but to ask for additional contributions from residents. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that won’t be necessary. (Good budget practice suggests we should build up a reserve fund to handle contingencies and long-term road improvements, and our initial goal was to budget $4000 a year for this purpose. Unfortunately, our revenues and expenses haven’t allowed us to do that, so at the present time we have no reserve fund.)


D. Miscellaneous

            Road Spraying: As in the past few years, we have targeted invasive Russian Thistle plants along the roadside with herbicide. This spraying has been done on a plant-by-plant basis, using a diluted mix (roughly 5 tablespoons of concentrate to a gallon of water) of Roundup, an herbicide whose main component is glyphosate. The toxicity of glyphosate has been extensively studied for several decades, and by far the large majority of rigorous studies have concluded it to be very safe. (Hundreds of people have tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide by drinking the chemical. A 200 lb person would have to drink about two pounds of the concentrate to have a 50% chance of dying, which places it roughly in the same toxicity category as table salt or sugar.) The half life of the chemical is about 45 days.

            Despite such findings, many people still worry about unrecognized toxicity, or the long term impact of the chemical on human health. Other people worry about allergies and chemical sensitivity to the herbicide. Other things being equal, therefore, many conclude that a “better safe than sorry” approach to glyphosate or any other herbicide is obviously desirable.

The SRRA directors are sympathetic to these concerns and have weighed the pluses and minuses of using the chemical. The problem is that Russian Thistle (aka “tumbleweed”) is a highly invasive weed that thrives in disturbed soils, such as the regularly graded soils alongside our road. If allowed to grow, the weeds develop into large unattractive plants which eventually die, break off, and spread seeds throughout the area. They also represent a substantial fire hazard during the late summer and autumn fire season. The SRRA directors voted to spray the Russian Thistle this past Spring, but to revisit the issue before next year’s weed season. We would very much welcome informed comments and opinions from residents on this issue.

Speed Bumps: The directors have discussed the pros and cons of installing speed bumps along the road as a way to slow down traffic. While speed bumps (or speed humps) can be effective, they are also a nuisance, can pose liability issues, require periodic maintenance, interfere with road grading and snow removal, and can be expensive to install. Nevertheless, we are continuing to look into the possibility, one option being to install one or two speed bumps as a pilot program. We would appreciate your thoughts on this issue. Thanks very much.


Jim Garland

President, Spur Ranch Road Association