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What the county’s talking about this week 

Ruffling feathers

Days after Mandy Davis appeared in two newspaper articles advocating restrictions on hunting in the Morro Bay Estuary, she lost her job at the State Park Marina. The timing is strange, she said and there’s no way to prove the two are related but that hasn’t stopped her and others in Morro Bay of suspecting that she got fired because she was seen as a threat to hunting.

“The timing was just a little strange,� said Davis.

Davis is gaining signatures for a petition that would limit the bird-hunting season in Morro Bay to three days a week. It would also close of hunting around Grassy Island. The proposed petition, which hunters resists strongly, asks Morro Bay, the Los Osos CSD, the National Estuary Program, and the Department of Parks and Recreation to take a stand for changing the hunting regulations. Neither of the previously mentioned groups have regulatory power of the estuary. The Fish and Game Commission regulates hunting laws.

Davis worked as the manager of the State Park Marina for nine months. She also ran the kayak shop for the marina as well as her own eco-tourism business. At the marina she promoted more conscious respect for the environment by providing information about the area and teaching people how to observe the wildlife without disturbing it, she said. Davis had just finished up a new marketing plan that emphasized promoting natural assets of the estuary when she was let go.

According to Davis the kayak shop has been around for 20 years and it’s never closed in the winter, so when she found out she was being let go she was confused and skeptical of the reasons given to her.

“The reason they gave me was the business wasn’t profitable and liability insurance was too much,� she said. But Davis said the owner of Associated Pacific, the company that manages the marina for the city of Morro Bay, is a hunter and possibly feels threatened by Davis’s lobbying actions.

Reg Whibley, who is in the process of selling Associated Pacific, said that the last storm that came through damaged the kayak area and for a long time he had been considering shutting it down in the winter, so it was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. He also said that he doesn’t hunt.

“I don’t care if she hunts or not,� said Whibley.



Under the bridge and paying for it

City Fire Chief Wolfgang Knabe has sent a memo to the city attorney recommending that Ethan Donahue, the 24-year-old kayaker who was rescued from San Luis Obispo Creek on Jan. 9, be fined for his rescue.

Donahue had attempted to paddle the flooded SLO creek but was forced to eject from his kayak. He then climbed to safety under a bridge on Broad Street. Firefighters then rescued Donahue from his dank, inaccessible perch.

Under a new state law that went into effect on Jan. 1, victims who are believed to defy warnings and common sense can be fined up to $12,000 for their rescue. Previously rescue costs were capped at $1,000.

Donahue could be the first person in the state who is forced to pay for his own rescue under the new law. Knabe said that Donahue’s rescue cost the city around $4,500, but that he recommended to City Attorney Jonathon Lowell that Donahue be charged $1,000, only part of the total rescue cost.

“If the new law allows us to charge, then we should,� said Knabe “I recommended a nominal fee, just to send a message.� It is up to the city attorney to decide if this situation falls under the new law. As of press time, both Donahue and Lowell were unavailable for comment.



Fox Theater trots back to life in Paso

Twenty years ago, they said it was curtains for the historic Fox Theater on Spring Street in Paso Robles. But today a trio of enterprising entrepreneurs has plans to breathe new life into the 83-year-old landmark.

Architect Charles Darrow has teamed up with real estate agents Cathy and Mike Sanchez to transform the dilapidated icon into a multi-use, nonprofit performing arts center for music, dance, film, and theater.

“There is a need for a facility of this type in the downtown area,� Darrow said in press release. “Several performing arts groups have expressed a keen interest in using the Fox once it’s complete.�

The need for such a venue became especially pronounced after the Flamson Middle School auditorium — Paso Robles’ only performing arts theater — was destroyed by the San Simeon earthquake in 2003.

The partners expect escrow on the property close by the middle of April. In the meantime, the investors are planning fund-raisers to help with renovating the 1922 building, which may cost an estimated $2 million. The refurbished theater should be open to the public by summer 2006.



Staff Writers Abraham Hyatt, John Peabody, and Jeff Hornaday compiled and reported on this week’s news.


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