Holland Road: Caught Between Rural Legacy, March of Progress

Tom Fuhrman, Menifee city council member and land owner in the affected area, stands in the middle o...

Tom Fuhrman, Menifee city council member and land owner in the affected area, stands in the middle of Holland Road.
Once again, in what has become a theme of the city of Menifee, the new and the old seem stubbornly opposed to one another.

Through the rugged southwestern landscape of a town torn between modern development and rural tranquility runs a country road where potholes are the least of concerns.

To the west, where the route enters Lake Elsinore, what was once a country path for farm vehicles is now a paved roadway, widening from two lanes to four as it approaches the new Canyon Hills housing project and the Herk Bouris Elementary School, which will open its doors in two weeks.

To the east, as the route brings motorists westbound from Murrieta Road, a narrow two-lane paved road shows the signs of progress that has marked Menifee's gradual growth for decades.

Where east meets west is a 1,200-foot stretch of dirt road that runs through the private property of four land owners as it completes this patchwork section of Holland Road. Leaving the pavement in Menifee at the Wooden Nickel Ranch at 25690 Holland Road to the east and wandering like some kind of Old West roller coaster through the dusty peaks and valleys bordering ranch land, it finally reconnects with asphalt on a hill climbing across the Lake Elsinore border.

No, this is certainly not the only place left in Menifee where private dirt roads have become well-traveled links between modern public roadways. It is, however, perhaps the most famous at the moment. Because it is the only direct route from Menifee into Lake Elsinore in the immediate area, it is increasingly becoming a "fast track" for vehicles that often exceed the 25 mph speed limit.

Heading west toward Lake Elsinore, the narrow road rises and dips it way to the Canyons Hills development.
Also, because many Menifee students have been reassigned to the new Herk Bouris Elementary School, it is a source of concern for parents whose children must now either walk or travel by car through a bumpy corridor that is only about 22 feet wide -- barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other.

"I have major concerns about the unpaved road," said Christina White, who lives at the corner of Holland and Murrieta Roads. "Until I found out my kids were going to be attending the new school, I never had any reason to take this road. I think it's totally unsafe ... other cars at full speed cut across to get past you, leaving the dirt flying all over the place.

"Now, with kids having to walk down that path, everyone will be driving more reckless than they already do, with last-minute parents trying to get their kids to school."

Could this potentially dangerous situation be resolved? Yes, say the many parties involved in negotiations to widen and pave that stretch of Holland Road. So why hasn't it been done?

That appears to be a most difficult question to answer.

It's not that the key players aren't trying. As recently as three weeks ago, officials from Menifee, Lake Elsinore, Menifee Union School District and Pardee Homes -- developer of the Canyon Hills project -- met to discuss a solution. Lake Elsinore officials, the group working most closely with Pardee, has a tentative meeting set with one of four land owners involved.

"In my opinion, Pardee has been proactive," said Lake Elsinore Director of Public Works Ken Seumalo, referring to the developer's willingness to extend its paving project eastward across the dirt stretch of road.

Unfortunately, it isn't that simple. Four property owners along the south side of Holland Road -- including Menifee city council member Tom Fuhrman -- would have to surrender several feet of their land bordering the road for the improvements to take place. Fuhrman, the unofficial spokesman for those land owners, says they are willing to do that -- under the right conditions.

"The property owners want to be relieved of the liability," said Fuhrman, who expresses concern about the increasing dangers of collision between vehicles and between vehicles and pedestrians on the road. In at least three places along that 1,200-foot stretch of dirt, the road crests to a peak and then drops sharply 8 to 10 feet. Cars and pedestrians often can't see a car coming over one of those hills until the last minute.

A blind, uncontrolled intersection at Anna Lane and Holland Road makes the stretch of road even more dangerous.
Worse yet, two dirt side streets -- Byers Road and Anna Lane -- intersect with Holland at blind spots with no stop signs.

"There are the hills to worry about, and then the side streets that are right past a hill, so you can't see if someone's coming out from a side street until it's too late," said Chris Varela, another frequent traveler on that stretch of road. "I'm just waiting for someone to come blowing onto Holland from a side street, leading to a nice little T-bone accident."

Fuhrman, who owns the massive Wooden Nickel Ranch on the north side of the road as well as a piece of land on the south side, said he has brought the matter up to Menifee city staff more than once, the last time as recently as November. Even so, the logistics of working with a developer, multiple land owners and another set of city officials have made the project a challenge for both Lake Elsinore and Menifee.

"It's not a city maintained road, and that's a big deal," said Menifee City Manager Bill Rawlings. "We can't just come in and change your back yard without your permission. It's a real challenge."

It's possible the cities could condemn the affected property of three of the land owners, essentially acquiring them by eminent domain, but not Fuhrman's land, because he is an elected official. The law would require that transaction to go through a third party.

"There's got to be a take of some kind from the property owners that can be worked out," Fuhrman said. "I wrote a letter to the city saying I'm willing to cooperate, but I also want to make sure the road is safe. To pave it the way it is would be a death trap."

There also has been no agreement at this point on the width of the road, whether it could be leveled out, and whether there would be sidewalks. Seumalo says Lake Elsinore is required only to pave a road 24 feet wide with two 12-foot lanes. Fuhrman says Menifee officials want the road to be twice that wide.

So while the negotiations continue and the start of the school year creeps closer, the only thing everyone agrees on so far is that the project should remain high priority.

"Everybody is working on this; it's not like we don't want this resolved," Rawlings said. "It may be convenient to point the finger at us, but we don't have the rights to that property. Even so, we're very concerned about the safety of people in that area."

Betti Cadmus, public information officer for the Menifee School District, said district officials are in "constant contact" with the city about the situation and that the office has received calls from concerned parents.

"Our concern is wanting to have a plan in place as soon as possible," Cadmus said.

A sign on the west end of the section of road leaving Lake Elsinore warns motorists of what's to come.


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  1. Wouldn't it have made more sense to take care of the road before building the school and putting kids in danger? There isn't one school over capacity at this time.

    I'd be willing to bet that if any of those parties working on getting the road fixed had kids walking on it, the road would be done.

    So are all four of the property owners liable, along with both Cities, when a child is killed?

    1. Exactly well said if my children or myself are injured or anything best believe that our families will be suing the city & the owners.

    2. I agree they should have thought and planned this out better. Now if anything happens to our children on that road Ill sue the city and the land owners for negligence . Just because their selfishness is more of a concern to them than our children's lives.

  2. why have "Menifee students ...been reassigned to the new Herk Bouris Elementary School"? We have enough ingress and regress road and safety issues with our own Menifee schools without having to take on the issues of a Canyon Hills campus.

    1. Because the school is in menifee it's not canyon hills.

    2. Herk Bouris Elementary is within Menifee Union School District.

    3. If the school is in Menifee, how come the property is under Lake elsinore Police jurisdiction, and not Menifee? The Lake Elsinore property line is that 'tree line' where the dirt road becomes paved.

  3. I recently used this road. After coming over one of the hills, I saw an overturned SUV with two men standing at the side of the road. The SUV had traveled the width of the road. I immediately thought of the students who might be walking this road, or they parents hurrying to get students to school coming over the hill and not having time to stop. Please be careful when driving this section of road.

  4. I really wish they would put a 4 way cross walk at southshore first, that 2 way they have now makes no sense what so ever. It losses legal crossing for one side of a street when kids are being picked up that they desperately need and people park there anyways. Plus a 4 way would make for smaller groups crossing in each direction instead of a mass of people going one way that blocks traffic and causes the traffic jam because the cars are never allowed to leave turning right onto holland during the green light.

  5. Of course the government is going to claim 'eminent domain', always trying to steal citizens property and rights. I have been complaining about these 'idiots' blazing through Holland road for the past four years, all the police do is sit at each end of Holland Road with their lights on for half an hour and tell me 'no one was speeding', well 'DUH' I wouldn't speed either with two cops sitting there watching. And why are we having to maintain a road to a school in Lake Elsinore jurisdiction with our Menifee school taxes anyway?
    And to Chris Varela it wouldn't be the people 'speeding' out of the side streets causing the 'T-Bone' accidents, it would be the speeders coming down the dirt section of Holland Road. I have suggested speed bumps but was told that they would slow the speed of emergency vehicles by 7 seconds per speed bump, so that is not feasible according to the PD.

    1. Anonymous