PROPERTY FOR SALE
By Michael P. Neufeld
Skyforest, CA – Santa’s Village in Skyforest opened to the public on Memorial Day weekend in 1955 and closed in November 1998. Santa’s Villages — Skyforest, Scotts Valley, CA., and East Dundee, IL — were the first franchised theme parks in the world. The Skyforest location actually opened about a month before Disneyland but the Santa’s Villages couldn’t survive and all three are now closed.
At one time, the Skyforest Santa’s Village was among the top tourist attractions in Southern California, with its elfin theme; Bumble Bee Monorail; the Whirling Christmas Tree; the Lollipop Lady; a variety of goodies from the Good Witches Bakery, Mrs, Claus’ Spice Factory and the Gingerbread House, and Santa’s House, where children could visit with Santa Claus himself.
After the park closed, a variety of events and activities took place on the property, including Christmas Tree sales by Rim High students and summer jazz concerts. But the arrival of the bark -beetle, which killed thousands and thousands of infested trees, led to the leasing of the 154-acre property to store logs that were destined for sawmills.
Logs were stored on both sides of Highway 18 — the mountain’s main evacuation route — causing concern to local residents and county authorities who had allowed the logs to be placed at the Santa’s Village site on a “temporary basis.”
However, as time passed it became evident to San Bernardino County Fire’s Assistant Chief Peter Brierty (now retired) and other officials that the massive log-clog created a serious fire hazard and a potential threat to individuals forced to evacuate the mountain in the event of a wildfire utilizing Highway 18.
San Bernardino County directed the owner of the property to remove the hazardous logs from the property in lieu of a pending “notice of emergency abatement.”
CST Organic Recycling of Redlands received a contract from the property owners to clear the logs from both sides of the highway. It took about a year for the owners and CST to pretty much wrap up the log removal.
“By getting the log piles removed,” Interim Fire Marshal Mike Horton stated in a press release, “we’re taking yet another step toward making the mountain communities fire-safe. Removing a major source of dead fuel which lay along both sides of our main mountain evacuation route was a high priority.”
Horton’s release went on to praise the cooperation County Fire has received from the property owners and the fire agencies affected by the log storage issue. Horton also emphasized that the property clearance project has been at no cost to county taxpayers, because the property owners had a responsibility to abate the fire hazard.
The environmental impact of any remaining materials after all the logs are removed has been the subject of discussion between the property owners and multiple agencies — including County Fire, the United States Forest Service and CalFire.
All parties agreed that the current process of chipping and spreading those materials around the site sufficiently mitigates any concern and the contract is proceeding with that part of the remediation project.
Last December, the owners of the property — the Plott Family Trust — evicted former tenant, West Coast Timber, and agreed to remove the log-clog at the Skyforest facility.
While the future of the former Santa’s Village property is still in question, at least the fire hazard has been mitigated and, should Highway 18 need to be utilized for a massive evacuation due to a wildfire, the logs will no longer pose a threat to residents and visitors to the mountain communities.