More than a century ago, Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere began the painstaking task of carving himself an underground home out of the hardpan north of Fresno.
By the time he died in 1946, Forestiere's compulsive digging had expanded his subterranean labyrinth -- known today as the Forestiere Underground Gardens on Shaw Avenue between Highway 99 and Golden State Boulevard -- to more than 50 rooms connected by tunnels and encompassing about 10 acres.
Now, some of Forestiere's descendants fear that California's proposed high-speed train project could threaten his creation -- either through the vibration of heavy equipment during construction or by eliminating much of the on-street parking for the historic landmark.
Mainly, though, they're confused by the lack of information from the state High-Speed Rail Authority about how the project would affect them.
A spokeswoman for the rail authority said last week that a revised construction plan released this month should take care of the construction and parking problems.
But family members say they've received no details from the authority addressing their concerns.
The Forestiere Underground Gardens attracts thousands of visitors each year from around the world and is listed on national, state and local historic landmark registers. Those are factors that Baldassare's nephew, property owner Ric Forestiere, and Ric's daughter Valery Forestiere, who co-manages the business, say should count for additional consideration from the rail authority.
"You would think that because we're a landmark at the national, state and local level, someone would have come out and talked to us," Valery Forestiere said. "Those kinds of discussions that we thought we were entitled to as a historic landmark, and that we expected, did not happen."
Anthony Forestiere, whose mother, Mary, owns the land just east of the Underground Gardens, said his side of the family also was not informed how their property might be affected by high-speed trains or related construction on nearby roads.
"It's just amazing. We've received nothing -- not an email, not a phone call, not a mailer or anything," Anthony Forestiere said. "I just don't get it."
The Forestieres' concerns over notification for their historic property is like other communication complaints up and down the San Joaquin Valley.
Despite mailers, public meetings and extensive news coverage, many property owners whose land could be affected by the project say they remain in the dark about plans for the high-speed tracks and related structures.
Authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Burcar said the agency has done what is legally required, and more, to notify property owners about the project. The authority has mailed notices to owners and bought newspaper advertisements to announce public meetings and hearings, and to promote the availability of detailed environmental documents for public review.
After a May 2-3 meeting in Fresno, the board asked its staff to reach out to the Forestieres to provide more details about the train plans. That meeting has yet to take place, Valery Forestiere said.
Burcar said the agency expects to meet with the Forestieres in Fresno "in the near future."
Authority board chairman Dan Richard said that while the agency has met its legal requirements for public notification, "I think the authority needs to do more."
Listening to the Forestieres emotionally describe the lack of communication from the authority at a hearing earlier this month was "a grave concern," Richard said Tuesday.