Major construction in Joshua Tree…What is it?

New Housing? Elementary School Project Looms in
Joshua Tree


UPDATE!! Not being able to find any information on this “project”, I inquired with Laraine Turk, (MBCA) who in turn sent the inquiry to David Fick (MBCA) who promptly responded with an overview of what he knew of this project. There are still several details that are not yet clear given that the school is a Calif state project and not something residents in Joshua Tree nor the County officials have any control over. You can see Mr. Fick’s response at the end of this article and photos.

With all the controversy over “big-box”, “corporate invasion”, “open space”, “anti development”, “preserve fauna and flora”, “water”, “sewage”, “view vistas”, “rustic rural character”, and numerous other sub-titles of concern, I am curious as to what the construction project is on the west side of Sunburst about 2 miles north of the 29-Palms Hwy in Joshua Tree that appears to be in conflict with the above “issues of concern”.

I’ve searched extensively Internet resources and cannot find a single word that gives a clue what this project is and no information seems to be available to contact the project proponents, operators, owners or others. Local news media appear to be void of any information.

The entire facility is chain-link fenced, locked gates, No Trespass Warnings posted and appears to be quite actively engaged in constructing some sort of “big-box”, corporate owned track-styled housing Elementary School, complete with several streets and a huge flood control ditch on its southern end, [Mr Fick describes: a shallow moat to capture water run-off] which, implies it sits in a “flood zone”. Large earth-moving equipment, construction “office trailer”, outhouse (Port-a-Potty,) survey stakes and other evidence of “development” can be seen throughout the entire section.

The “yellow” line in the map below represents their chain-link fence — not necessarily the entire parcel which may be a total of 40-acres.

This section of developing land is about 0.20 miles square, or 1,115,136 square feet which is equal to 25.6 acres. It is bordered on the north by Calle de los Amigos, Sunburst on its east, El Reposo on the west  and its center is about 1.8 miles north of the 29-Palms Hwy. 


Photos taken Saturday, March 24, 2012

North end westerly view from Sunburst

Mid SouthWest along El Reposo - northernly view

Large drainage pipes (24 to 30 inch?) near north end - westerly view

Street cuts - north west by west view from Sunburst

North/north-west view - Construction Office Trailer at north end

 Mr. Fick’s brief email received late Sunday the 25th:

On Mar 25, 2012, at 4:48 PM, Laraine Turk wrote:

> Bill, I believe this may be the new site of the Joshua Tree 
> Elementary School, but I am copying David who will know for sure and 
> will be able to give you more information.
> Laraine


      This is the new Joshua Tree Elementary School site. It’s 
supposed to be a 16 acre campus, but they have very awkwardly included 
a 13 acre bio-swell. I’ve talked to Ron Smith (of MUSD, 760 367-9191 
ext. 4232 ) about it. He made a presentation about the “New” JT 
Elementary School to the JT MAC about 8 or 9 months ago. It didn’t 
include the “bio-swell” at that time, because at the MAC presentation 
he was asked about the other 24 acres (it’s a forty acre parcel) and 
he said MUSD was intending to leave it as is. The School site 
originally wasn’t intending a bio-swell, but state requirements did.

A bio-swell is a “moat’ around the perimeter (with shallow sides to 
prevent injury) to catch the free flowing surface water coming from 
Bartlett Mountain and the “bad flood controlled” sub-division [existing housing] to 
the north of the school site and have the water channeled around the 
school. They then had to figure out what to do with all the displaced 
soil from the “moat making”, so they cleared more land for that. 
That’s the way they do it in Sacramento. [everything on paper] The “state architect” is 
based in Riverside and Bill Warner of Nolte Engineering (formerly 
Warner Engineering) had a hand in the preliminary landscape design. 
Bill Warner’s answer is to clear and grade ALL the land. The construction is almost “sanctified” by state law, in that normal laws [building codes and local ordinances] that pertain to land clearing and such need not be followed. This is a state project.

would have been reviewed by a sane bunch of people who [live here] know the desert 
and would be able to give design input to “go with the flow” and give proper respect to the desert landscape and had caring answers.

Oh, and a FEDERAL NCHR trumps State law.

   David Fick
(760) xxx-xxxx

EdNote: gray notes in brackets “["  "]” are added for clarity

“BIO-SWELL” is actually spelled BIO-SWALE. The photo below is an example of a Bio-Swale, under construction around a housing project. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

BIOSWALE under construction surrounding a housing complex


Bioswales are landscape elements designed primarily to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. They consist of a swaled drainage course with gently sloped sides (less than six percent) and filled with vegetation, compost and/or riprap. The water’s flow path, along with the wide and shallow ditch, is designed to maximize the time water spends in the swale, which aids the trapping of pollutants and silt. Depending upon the geometry of land available, a bioswale may have a meandering or almost straight channel alignment. Biological factors also contribute to the breakdown of certain pollutants.

A common application is around parking lots, where substantial automotive pollution is collected by the paving and then flushed by rain. The bioswale, or other type of biofilter, wraps around the parking lot and treats the runoff before releasing it to the watershed or storm sewer.






About Bill Ford, Founder

Born in the late 30s - you do the math. Lots of life experiences in numerous endevors but not an expert in any that I know of. I'm a fan of challenging projects. When I'm told it can't be done I go ahead and do it anyway. This web site is one of 'em. How long will this web site last? Hard to say. Depends on how long I live. Film at Eleven. --bf
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5 Responses to Major construction in Joshua Tree…What is it?

  1. Branson Hunter says:

    Query to David… Would culverts work as well as opposed to this bio-swell? This mass is shameful and distressful. It’s a picture of the future of Joshua Tree. This is why a NCHR is the only salvation for J.T.

    • Hello Branson
      This isn’t “David”… I sent him your Query a few minutes ago.

      While I’m certainly not qualified to answer that question, I must use some logic in thinking that an “open moat” (aka “bio-swell”… never heard that before) even with a fence around it, children or even adults would be subject to “falling into it”. Even if the moat had very gradual slopes in lieu of a “steep sided” ditch the potential for a mishap by “lookie-lues”, especially if the moat is filled with rushing water and debri, is very likely to happen.

      You suggest “culverts”. That makes sense. Screened off at each end and buried would prevent the potential hazard. But, my question is why on earth would the state put an elementary school atop what appears to be a flood zone in the first place?

      Like other issues, government doesn’t move in the right direction to put a stop sign or traffic light at an intersection until at least 3 people are killed. Then they take it into “consideration for further study.”


  2. David Fick says:

    I do have to admit that I’m not a building engineer, but the bio-swell is collecting sheets of water coming from the neighborhood to the north. I’m acquainted with the sub division to the north with all that imported developer Spanish and bad drainage. Culverts work if you already have a contained water stream. It might be that the bio-swell is the state’s answer as a “collector” of free flowing water coming towards the protected project. Ron Smith of MUSD has the plans and was willing to share the “forced logic” of this bio-swell. If possible, he could come to a future JT MAC meeting with a re-presentation as to how and why.

  3. Rok Vrhovnik says:

    Who is the plumbing contractor for this school?

    • Rok: Frankly, I don’t know. However, the school is a California State project – not a local city, county or private project. I suggest you contact the San Bernardino County building & safety department where you will likely get a much quicker answer of who the GC is. Then contact the GC to learn who the plumbing subcontractor is and how to contact them.


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