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Written by Administrator
June 24th, 2010 at 10:00 am

A view of Hinkley, California from Highway 58

I spent a better part of two days this past week exploring Hinkley, California, trying to get a feel for the community and those who live there.  It seems to be an area without definition and little has been written about it, which left me with a lot to learn.

What brought me to Hinkley was research on Nursery Products LLC, a company specializing in organic fertilizer, which is created by combining biosolids and green waste.  The company has been going through the permitting process for several years so that it can open a facility in the middle of uninhabited desert 8 miles west of Hinkley.  See map:

Click to Enlarge

Several residents of Hinkley have been fighting Nursery Products’ plans for the site in an attempt to keep the company out of the area. I wanted to see for myself if their concerns and claims are valid.

An established recycling business located on Highway 58, Hinkley, CA

Hinkley, California is a community located in the Mojave Desert, 14 miles west of Barstow, California, and is best known as the setting for the movie released in 2000 Erin Brockovich.  The community is not officially recognized by the United States, although it does have its own zip code.  Its boundaries are not marked so I had to guess.  I spent a great deal of time riding up and down every street from Old Highway 58 through the end of Santa Fe on the north side of Highway 58 and Lenwood Road to Helendale Road on the south side of Highway 58.  I don’t think I missed a street in between.

Hinkley, California

It appears Hinkley has seen better times.  A large percentage of its homes are boarded up, sprayed with graffiti, and in disrepair.  Most of their businesses are shuttered as well.  Much of the area is in need of renovation and rehabilitation although the southeast side does have some new construction and well kept up homes.

Hinkley, CA long ago

Like many rural areas, I suspect the residents enjoy the lifestyle they have created for themselves.  At the same time, it is hard to believe they enjoy the blight left behind by those who packed up and moved on, leaving their properties to the whims of Mother Nature, vandals, and age.

Hinkley’s north side

There are virtually no businesses, or jobs, in Hinkley, except for dairy farms and alfalfa crops and a few other agricultural enterprises.  On the edge of town there is a massive recycler/auto dismantler located right on Highway 58.  The place is a disaster and an eyesore.  I am amazed county Code Enforcement allows something that appears to be so much of a health hazard to Hinkley’s citizens.

One of Hinkley’s many alfalfa producers with west Barstow and Lenwood in the background.

Commercial buildings consist of a small store/gas station, elementary school, fire station, research center, senior citizens’ center, PG&E, a couple of churches, and several possible stores/cafes.  I could not tell if they are officially part of the community or not.  The community is sparsely populated and spread out over quite a few square miles.

The center of town, Hinkley, California

Because dairy farms and alfalfa crops are Hinkley’s most significant enterprise, and there are also a lot of horses and other livestock, one of the concerns about Nursery Products—odor—is a bit confounding.  Hinkley already smells bad and flies are everywhere.

The cleanest dairy farm I found in Hinkley located in the “nice” part of town.

Honestly, I’m having a hard time understanding how a facility located  8 miles away is going to make things worse.  And that is indicative of the situation at hand.  The facility 8 miles away is NOT the real problem in Hinkley.

Hinkley’s southeast side just down the street from PG&E

It would seem that a community as impoverished as Hinkley appears to be would welcome industry, especially industry that will not impact the community negatively and has the potential to employ residents and bring business to the town.  But Hinkley has not welcomed Nursery Products; rather it has placed every conceivable obstacle in its way to keep it from opening.  The question is why. The answer is financial gain by a few.

Southside blight

Nursery Products LLC will provide a place for all local jurisdictions to dispose of biosolids, saving them money.  Its nearest competitor, McCarthy Farms/Liberty Energy, is located in Bakersfield.  Liberty charges $70 per truck load of biosolids.  Nursery Products will be able to provide the same service for $40 a truck load.   Needless to say, the loss in revenue to Liberty will be substantial.

Liberty has bankrolled an individual by the name of Norman Diaz to lead the fight against the high desert facility.  Mr. Diaz has proven to have issues with the truth and has used tactics based on fantasy rather than scientific fact to scare the residents of Hinkley into believing that Nursery Products will victimize them the same way PG&E did in the 1960s through 1990s.

Approximate location of Nursery Products site

Diaz formed an organization called HelpHinkley.org, which claims to be a non-profit organization involved in fundraising to promote their causes.  However, we have been unable to locate any confirmation that 503(c) has been established to accept the donations Diaz collects.  As a matter of fact, it has been discovered that he has a bank account in Venice, California with $85,000 on deposit, yet he has no visible means of income except for donations collected by this “nonprofit.”

Hinkley’s bygone era

Diaz and HelpHinkley make a lot claims simply not validated by facts.  His website offers innuendo but no proof of what he claims.  He aligns himself with some of the desert’s most stellar individuals such as ET Snell by adding a link to HelpHinkley to ET’s “Recall Brad Mitzelfelt” website.  Considering ET’s most well-known interests, I wonder if ET is aware of Diaz’s propencity for photographing children without parental consent.

Another dairy farm situated across from the Hinkley store (above) and just down the street from the Hinkley Elementary School

It is unfortunate that the citizens of Hinkley have become a pawn yet again of those with nefarious intent.  Nursery Products will be opening their facility later this year and Hinkley residents will finally learn that the “sky is falling” claims of Diaz and others left them victimized once more.  Nursery Products plans to be a good, albeit distant, neighbor and Hinkley will discover their fears to be unsubstantiated.  Shame on those who profited from this charade.