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Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Nov 21, 2013

evelynevandersande_mugThis story has many chapters, and in years to come, I think it could make a thick book.

Recently we entered a new episode: Goodbye boulder pinch points, hello split-rail fences.

Let me refresh your memory about the previous chapters so you can keep up.

The Placerita Canyon Nature Center was always a multi-use park, open to hikers and equestrians. Last year, a petition was submitted by a well-organized mountain bike group, asking that the Canyon Trail be opened for cycling.

After the presentation of the petition, the county wheels went into motion. The trail was evaluated and report was put together. Here is the county staff’s recommendation:

canyontrail111513a“In response to the petition and the high level of interest in opening the trail for mountain bike use, the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation contacted with the Planning Center DC&T to complete a Trails 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 purpose of the assessment process was to evaluate the condition of the trail sustainability as it pertains to existing and/or proposed uses.

“Analysis was done and the decision was made to open the trails 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.”

That was a major change at Placerita, and a lot of work was needed on the trails to make the cohabitation between hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers both possible and safe.

Signs were installed, vegetation was cut to improve visibility, the trail was smoothed down for safe footing, fencing and barriers were erected along the trail, and pinch points were built to reduce the speed of the mountain bikes.

What is a pinch point? Several large rocks are placed close to each other, leaving a small space in between, which forces the bikes to slow way down. This was done in many places along the trail to prevent the mountain bikes from gathering too much speed so the hikers or equestrians would not feel threatened or taken by surprise around a bend in the trail by a fast-moving cyclist.

The docents were worried about all of those changes on the trail. They kept a close eye on the trees and plant trimming, working in cooperation with the trail crew. But the pinch points proved to be a life saver. We were all concerned about the possible downhill speed of the mountain bikes, but because they had to go through the pinch points time and time again, many of them decided to choose other trails because they missed the thrill of high speed and making jumps.

Trail writer.

Trail writer.

The mountains bikers who used the mountain trails were pleased by this new opportunity and were ready to accept the limitations of the trail.

The experience was positive, and few accidents were reported until … a dark day, indeed.

Eleven pinch points were vandalized. The large rocks were pushed into the canyon, and mountain bikers started to use the Canyon Trail at full speed.

Many hikers were upset and scared, and they voiced their displeasure on Facebook, The news reached county officials who decided to act quickly, understanding this was a safety hazard for the trail users.

A meeting was held between the trail supervisor, Ralph Beltran, and Superintendent Russ Kimura to determine the best approach to repair the pinch points and prevent further vandalism.

On Oct. 31, the crew quickly began re-establishing the pinch points by positioning split-rail fencing at strategic locations on the trail to slow any high-speed traffic.

On Nov. 6, Dwight La Croix, facilities Operations and Crafts manager for County Parks and Recreation visited the site to evaluate the crew’s progress. He was pleased to see the pinch point modifications were already completed. He mentioned that he spoke with some hikers who thanked him for the quick action from the county to restore safety to the trail.

Even the bikers seem to be content with the split-rail fencing, which is more effective than the boulders were.

canyontrail111513cThe mountain bikers appreciate the opportunity to be on the mountain trail, and they did not like that the actions of a few vandals would damage their reputation. Most of the time, their behavior has been respectful and careful, and they resented those few bad apples. However, the vandals are out there.

I want to make it clear that all incidents should be reported to the Nature Center. If you see any suspicious or dangerous situation, please report it to Russ Kimura, Park Superintendent at Placerita, 661-279-7721.

In addition, you can report problems using this form: http://www.placerita.org/documents/TrailIncidentReportcopy.pdf. Completed forms can be returned to the park office or emailed to Russ at rkimura@parks.lacounty.gov.

The effectiveness of the pinch points needs to be monitored, and it is important to keep a close watch on the trail to make sure the pinch points are working smoothly, that the hiking experience is pleasant and safe, and that our hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians can co-exist on the trail in harmony.

Maybe you have no idea where all this drama is happening? Come see for yourself. I recommend a visit to Placerita Canyon Nature Center and a hike along the Canyon Trail while the foliage is still golden. Go there and give us some feedback, tell us if you felt safe on the trail, breathe deeply the cool air, listen to the birds, and make a rain dance if you can – please. Thank you for your support and your visit to Placerita Canyon.

 

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

 

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2 Comments

  1. Mike Naoum says:

    Truly unfortunate that this vandalism occurred. As both a hiker and mountain biker who uses this trail, the improvements to accommodate both were great. Whether there are rocks or there is fencing at pinch points, the intention is good and contributes to a positive experience for both parties. Glad the trail can be shared and I think the majority of the hikers understand that shared use is not a bad thing. Everyone should be able to enjoy this scenic trail. And the improvements ahve made it easier for families wanting to push strollers through.

  2. Juan Adam says:

    Why not huge boulders AND fencing? Knew this was coming as sure as the sunrise. No surprise whatsoever.

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