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Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Dec 27, 2012

evelynevandersande_mugFor 40 years, the docents at Placerita Canyon Nature Center were told that the center was a “Natural Area.” Certainly the environment on the Canyon Trail, following the course of the stream, was a delicate area that needed to be preserved. It is an environment specific to certain plants not seen anywhere else in the park, and is a special area used by many animals in need of moisture. A part of it is used for educational purposes, teaching school groups.

The docents never dreamed that it could be open for mountain bike use. However, pressure was exerted by mountain bike enthusiasts who submitted a signed petition to have the trail opened for their use. After that, the county wheels were in motion and the docents’ struggle to keep mountain bikes off the trail was defeated.

Yes, the docents are concerned about the environmental impacts, but most of all they are worried about the safety of the hikers. It is an easy hike because the trail is mostly without much elevation change, and it is used by families with children who often run ahead of the parents. Many people stop to take photos of plants or animals and are not looking for traffic (as it should be while taking a stroll in Nature). The thrill of mountain bikers is to go fast on a bumpy trail.

canyontraill02Are those activities compatible? There are numerous blind spots on the narrow trail, and there have been accidents.  One that comes to mind is when a group leader sustained a concussion while protecting a group of young children from a mountain bike rider who did not even stop.

The mission statement for the docents at Placerita is “to inspire a passion, awareness and respect for the environment, and to preserve and protect for future generations the history and ecosystem of Placerita Canyon.” No wonder the docents are disappointed not to have been able to protect the Canyon Trail.

This is from a county report:

“In response to this petition and the high level of interest in opening the trail for mountain bike use, the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation contracted with The Planning Center | DC&E to complete a Trail Use Change Survey modeled after the process used by California State Parks. The consultant conducted two community meetings and solicited comments from the public as a part of the assessment process and made the Trail Assessment recommendations. The process used by the consultant and the department is similar to one developed by California State Parks, but was modified to reflect the county’s Trails Manual guidelines and classifications.

canyontraill01“The purpose of the assessment process was to evaluate the condition of the trail and the trail’s sustainability as it pertains to existing and/or proposed uses. Analysis was done and the decision was made to open the trail to mountain bikes. Those are public trails, supported by tax dollars, so they should be used by all and the park management made this decision.”

The bike riders will be required to walk on the part of the trail used by school groups. Accidents should be reported to the office and a report should be taken by a county employee. It would be helpful if photos can be taken at the site of the accident. If there are witnesses to the accident, please ask them to sign the report. Keep a copy of the report for your own records. If anybody feels threatened on the trail, they should go to the office and fill out a report. It is important that the actual results of the changed use be documented, in the event that the accident rate increases – only in that event might the change be reversed.

Let me give you some details about the scope of the work planned on the trail:

 

Start date: Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Completion: February/March 2013

Multi-use (Hike, Bike, Ride) access: March 2013

• Replacement and installation of signage

canyontraill07• Remediation of erosion and restoration of proper cross-drainage

• Removal of tree hazards

• Minor trimming of vegetation along the trail

• Leveling of portions of existing trail tread for safe footing

• Fencing and barriers along portions of the trail

• Installation of step-over(s) for the “walk zone”

• Installation of pinch points for speed reduction.

 

canyontraill05The docents were concerned about the amount of construction on the trail and tried to preserve many rare plants by tying yellow tape on them to prevent them from being removed or damaged. Some trees received the same marking treatment if they were woodpecker habitats.

In January, we will enter the “construction phase” on the Canyon Trail: Rocky ledges are going to be smoothed out, fences are going to be erected, and places where the trail is slightly sloped will be leveled flat. All of this activity will be done to accommodate the use of the trail by the mountain bikers.

The trail will be closed some days when heavy work is being done. The dates of the closure cannot be known in advance.

I recommend that you stay away from the Canyon Trail for the next three months if you want to hike in the morning and use the Waterfall Trail instead so you do not have to be inconvenienced by these closures. If you come during the weekend or in the afternoon, it should not be a problem because the crews stop working at noon.

The trail will survive and its beauty will endure. I have seen fires and El Nino doing terrible damage in Placerita, but nature is very resilient and recovers. It will just take some time.

 

Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 27 years. She lives in Newhall.

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. This makes me so sad. An extreme, fast sport like mountain biking does not belong where people (especially children), and horses are. Having suffered an injury from two speeding mountain bikers who did not even stop gives me personal knowledge of this. No matter what changes the county makes, they cannot make the mountain bikers obey rules such as a slower, safe speed.

  2. Vanessa says:

    What a nightmare.. I walked along these trails as a child with Frank Hovore learning about insects on the stream and in the plants. How will future generations of children have that same experience when bikers are zipping around them, distracting and potentially injuring them? In light of recent events, how can the county support a choice that trades the safety of children for the ‘rights’ of mountain bikers? How many children will be injured? Shame on the county! Shame on them!! I am disgusted.

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