WITH VISITATION WAY UP, PREPARE FOR A VERY BUSY JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

March and April are traditionally the busiest times of the year at Joshua Tree National Park. Based on increased visitation last year during what was typically the slow season, the park expects even more visitors this spring. Visitors to the national park this spring should expect limited parking, full campgrounds, and a line to get into the park. Managing editor Tami Roleff offers these tips about visiting Joshua Tree National Park…

When planning your trip to Joshua Tree National Park, plan a mid-week trip. The park is most popular on weekends and holidays, which can mean significant traffic congestion. To avoid crowds, consider planning a trip Monday through Thursday.

Buy a digital pass before you arrive at recreation.gov. This pass will make entry to the park quicker and easier.

Arrive at the park entrance before 10 a.m. The busiest times at the park entrance are between 10 and 2, and avoid exiting the park around sunset.

Other tips to prepare for your park visit:

Recreate responsibly no matter what time of year you visit. For the spring, remember to respect the park’s wildflowers by taking only photos. Please walk on trails and never crush vegetation to protect these blooms for years to come.

The park may become drive-through only as the parking lots reach maximum capacity during times of extreme visitation. Visitors may be turned away from popular parking areas.

Be flexible with your plans. The best hike may be the one where parking is readily available.

Visitors can park along many, but not all, roadsides. Never drive over a curb to make a new parking space.

Make a reservation at www.recreation.gov to reserve one of the 350 reservable campsites in the park. If there are no reservation sites available, there likely will not be first-come, first-served sites available when you arrive. Look to one of the private campgrounds adjacent to the park.

Many campgrounds intersect with hiking trails. Campers can hike trails that connect to their campground to avoid busy parking lots.

Find a new favorite spot to explore in the park. There is no one best campsite, trail, or sunset spot.

STATE ANNOUNCES PANDEMIC STIMULUS PLAN

The state announced a pandemic stimulus plan yesterday (February 17). California lawmakers reached a spending deal on stimulus checks for individuals, small business grants, and housing for farmworkers. The deal covers a proposed stimulus plan to give a $600 one-time payment to low-income Californians. It includes money for grants up to $25,000 for small businesses, nonprofits, and cultural centers. Farm and food processing workers will be housed in hotels if they contract coronavirus. The stimulus package includes two years of fee relief for restaurants and bars and more fee relief for barbering and cosmetology individuals and businesses. New federal funds will provide stipends of $525 per enrolled child for state-subsidized childcare and preschools. The funding extends care for children of essential workers through June 2022. Agricultural workers will receive financial assistance and services; qualifying low-income community college students carrying six or more units, and community college students who have left school—or are at risk of leaving school because of the pandemic—will receive financial aid. And supplemental food assistance will be given students at the University of California, California State University and California community colleges.

MORONGO VALLEY CSD RE-ELECTS INCUMBENTS, DISCUSSES SOFTBALL, GATHERINGS

The Morongo Valley Community Services District board of directors tackled numerous topics at last night’s nearly four-hour board meeting, including electing a new board president and vice president. The board unanimously re-elected current President Gayl Swarat and Vice President Christina Brook back to their respective positions. Reporter Andrew Dieleman has more from the meeting…

At last night’s marathon meeting, the board also created an ad hoc committee including President Gayl Swarat and Vice President Christina Gorke to determine how to spend a recent $180,000 grant for updates to Covington Park. The committee will collect recommendations on how to best use the funds with the hopes of completing the park updates in time for summer 2021. The board tabled discussions on possibly holding a 2021 softball season until its March meeting. The board is expected to allow planning for the season to begin with the understanding that the season may not take place depending on COVID-19 precautions from the CDC.

The board also held an extensive discussion on the district’s mid-year budget review. While the district budget is slightly over the mid-year projection, additional fire department strike-team funds are expected to supplement the budget for the year. The board then discussed ways to prevent large gatherings that continue to be held in Covington Park. The board will continue the discussion during the March meeting with additional information on restrictions on gathering requirements from the CDC.

The board also discussed board members violating district policies on relations among directors and with staff. After a lengthy discussion, the board tabled the item until the March meeting to allow time to review the district policies for ways to adjust wording of the document to both reinforce the policy and introduce consequences to board members who violate it.

Lastly, the board adjourned to closed session, a small portion of which was inadvertently broadcast to the public, to conference without legal counsel and to perform a public employee performance evaluation with the district’s director of operations. After the meeting, President Swarat reported that the board will continue discussions on both topics during the district’s March meeting.

HEALTHCARE DISTRICT AND HEALTH CENTER BOARDS MEET TOGETHER TONIGHT

The boards of the Morongo Basin Healthcare District and the Community Health Center will hold a joint meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, February 18. First up is an employee recognition of those who were instrumental in the delivery of the COVID-19 testing program. Next the boards will hear a progress report on the strategic plan as it relates to the community health needs assessment. The meeting will be held at district administrative offices, 6530 La Contenta Road, suite 700, in Yucca Valley, but residents are encouraged to participate in the meeting online.

The public will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the building and will be asked to wear a face mask while inside. Seating is limited to accommodate CDC six-foot distancing guidelines.

This regular meeting of the Board of Directors will also convene via GoToMeeting, an electronic platform for remote communication. The community is welcome to join the meeting as follows:

Please join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

https://www.gotomeet.me/MBHD/morongo-basin-healthcare-district-board-meeting-1

This meeting is locked with a password: ##meetingPassword

You can also dial in using your phone. United States: +1 (872) 240-3212

Access Code: 360-541-893

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts: https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/360541893

HEART-HEALTHY DIET TIPS

February is American Heart Month and Z107.7 wants to encourage you to be heart healthy. Reporter Cassidy Taylor gave Dr. Edith Jones-Poland a call to talk about ways to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke…

Struggling to eat healthy? You’re not alone. It can be hard but nonetheless, it is so important in your fight against heart disease and stroke. Dr. Jones-Poland recommends starting with the processed food in your diet.

Dr. Edith Jones-Poland is the chair of the 2021 American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women in the Coachella Valley and High Desert. Courtesy photo

“Look to reduce processed carbohydrates in particular, trying to reduce bread, pasta, rice, cereals, things like that, that add additional sugar into the diet.”

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, killing one woman every 80 seconds. So, while cutting back on the yummy pasta dinners may be difficult, it is definitely worth it to have a strong and healthy heart.