HOMESTEAD VALLEY – Sailing over the desert in the car of a kids’ carnival ride, a tiny Lakey Kolb seems to wave at the cars rumbling below on a new billboard ad for an old campaign.
Placed near the corner of Old Woman Springs Road at Buena Vista Drive, the billboard advertises an effort to have Highway 247 protected as a scenic route from Yucca Valley to Barstow.
Lakey’s home is in Pipes Canyon, amidst buttes and valleys that are frequent targets for renewable energy developers.
In 2007, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced a plan to build a corridor of power lines through Pioneertown, Pipes Canyon and the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. The project galvanized local residents who fought against it, and the LA utility finally dropped its Green Path project in 2010.
Then one day Lakey spotted a helicopter flying low through the valley outside her back door.
“The next morning there was a turbine erected on the butte to test the wind,” she said.
The Black Lava Butte project erected 200-foot masts on the steep, flattop hill directly outside Lakey’s front door. The towers monitored the weather for an Oregon company looking for an ideal spot for a farm of 400-foot-high wind turbines.
The application for the wind towers was withdrawn in January 2011.
Black Lava Butte is now shielded from further energy projects as part of the Sand to Snow National Monument created in 2016. But the surrounding desert is still open to future energy development.
Lakey rented out a billboard a few miles north of the highway’s starting point to make people aware of the threats to the land along Highway 247. It features one of her photographs of the valley. Zipping above the desert floor is a photo of Lakey as a child, taking in her surroundings from the bucket of a carnival ride.
“Scenic 247,” the sign reads. “Let’s make it official.”
It also directs people to a GoFundMe account where she is raising money to continue to rent the billboard.
Lakey especially hopes to catch the attention of new residents who don’t realize the pressure the race for solar energy is putting on the desert.
“This vast space of peace and beauty – I want people to understand this beauty can be taken away from you so fast.”
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