The long-awaited recommendation for the location of the new Oakhurst Community College Center (OCCC) has been released - and the No. 1 choice from 10 sites originally submitted for consideration is at the present location (southeast corner of Crane Valley Road (426) and Golden Oak Loop), with some additional land added.
The site recommendation was made by Scott Odell of Odell Planning and Research, Inc. of Oakhurst in a 23-page Site Selection Study released last week.
The proposed plan is to combine the current 2.73 acre site, with property owned by the county (including the Oakhurst Branch Library), and the Pashayan lot (Highway 41 adjacent to the Chevron Station), for a total of 10 acres.
The report states Site 1 is served by existing utilities, transit, and street access. It has high visibility to the community and is the closest to the center of town with good terrain. It also has the added benefit of proximity to the Oakhurst Community Park.
The study points out that the science lab at the current site houses an impressive taxidermy collection that is utilized for instructional purposes in biology, environmental biology, and art classes, as well as the occasional K-12 field trip. The current display does not offer the necessary environment to preserve the collection properly.
The State Center Community College District (SCCCD) envisions this collection being the heart of a wildlife museum at the new campus that would be open to the public and offer educational field trips and tourism opportunities to the community.
This concept fits well, Odell wrote, with the community’s strong interest in the campus providing instructional programs in forestry, natural resources, science, and environmental studies as reported in the Oakhurst Community Survey 2017.
The current campus does not provide library services on site. Madera County and SCCCD are exploring the possibility of co-locating a new Oakhurst Branch Library on the new OCCC campus, which would be constructed either on combined land at the existing campus and library location or built on a new campus site at another location. This co-location concept aligns with the Oakhurst Community Survey 2017 where partnerships was a dominant theme for desired community benefit and use of the new facility stated the study.
In the Oakhurst Student Feedback Survey, more than 92% of students reported library services as being “important” to “very important.” More than 72% of those students reported library services as being “very important.”
Three additional sites considered
☆ The No. 2 recommendation is a combination of two proposals submitted by Ron Montgomery and Nick Schneider, providing 21 acres on the east side of Highway 41 near Hartwell Road.
☆ The No. 3 recommendation is on 6 acres between the back of the Sierra Star building (49165 Crane Valley Road - 426) and Sierra Telephone’s Parkway Building.
Odell’s study states the No. 2 and No. 3 sites are roughly equal, with different benefits and drawbacks. Both are highly visible with adjacent or nearby utilities and transit. Both have the potential for good street access once the planned Mid-Town Connector is complete, and a signal is installed at Road 426 and Sierra Way. Recommendation No. 2 has terrain challenges and is further from the center of town.
Site No. 3 has flat terrain, and is closer to the center of town, but at only six acres, the site is smaller than ideal. However, it could work depending on design of the campus, and with the potential for acquiring an adjacent one-acre parcel.
☆ Recommendation No. 4 is for a 20.7-acre site on the west side of Westlake Drive, north of Highway 41, submitted by Russ Shaw.
Public meeting at 6 p.m., Sept. 21, at Oakhurst Community Center
The Oakhurst Community College Center will host a community feedback forum for residents interested in learning more about and providing feedback to the Oakhurst Site Selection Study.
The community feedback forum will take place 6 - 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21, at the Oakhurst Community Center. For proper planning, college officials ask attendees to RSVP by Wednesday, Sept. 20 to (559) 675-4874 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background of the site selection process
The SCCCD 2012-2025 District-wide Facilities Master Plan calls for the removal of the portable buildings, the construction of a permanent building, expanded parking, and the creation of community space for the Oakhurst campus.
After asking the public to submit potential properties for the site of the new OCCC earlier this year with an online survey and feedback from a forum in Oakhurst, 10 sites in the Mountain Area were evaluated by district officials with four of the sites being identified for additional study.
The input received was the basis for the site selection criteria, which resulted in an emphasis placed on access by both private and public transportation, and food and emergency services.
The initial evaluations also included the existing terrain, slope changes, trees, and the ease, or difficulties, of grading the site to meet ADA standards. Another phase of the process provided additional information about the four properties that included cost and the review of property studies, including environmental, biological, archeological, and drainage.
The funds for the new campus are from Measure C, the $485 million bond that nearly 66% of voters approved in June 2016, to improve facilities in the district, including $25 million for construction of a permanent Oakhurst campus.
SCCCD identified a new, permanent campus for the Oakhurst Community College Center as a Measure C project, and a portion of the bond proceeds are intended to be used for site acquisition and permanent facilities.
The complete study can be seen at scccd.edu.
For those unable to attend the feedback forum, but would still like to give feedback for the Site Selection Study, they can do so online at: http://bit.ly/OCCCSiteSelection. Participants are asked to complete the survey after they have read and are familiar with the Site Selection Study (scccd.edu).
Trustees will consider the recommendation Oct. 3
The goal is to have the SCCCD Trustees consider the site recommendation made by Odell and the SCCCD site selection group, at it’s Oct. 3 board meeting at the Madera Community College Center at 4:30 p.m. at 30277 Avenue 12.
Oakhurst Community College Center is part of the multi-college State Center Community College District, established in 1964. OCCC is part of California’s 114 community colleges in 72 districts, which have a total enrollment of more than 2.6 million students, the largest education system in the world.