Angeles National Forest, Altadena — “Trail closed” signs were removed from the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail as it reopened from Switzers/Bear Canyon trail junction to Oakwilde campground and the Ken Burton trail for the first time in nine years.
Hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians now have access to all 26 miles of the Gabrielino.
Large swaths of the trail were destroyed by the 2009 Station Fire and subsequent El Niño storms. Sections that survived had suffered years of erosion and lack of use or maintenance.
It was virtually impassable due to hundreds of downed trees, rock slides, heavy sloughing and failed support structures.
In the years shortly after the fire, a few people who ignored the closure order ended up lost and needing rescue.
CORBA President Steve Messer, the USDA Forest Service, and professional trail builders did a hike-through assessment of the Arroyo Seco trail section in February 2016. It would be another year before work could begin.
In fall 2017 it took six volunteer sawyers two days of chainsaw work to cut through the trail corridor. Much more chainsaw work was needed to cut through log jams and overgrown sections of trail, where brush had been growing for more than eight years.
The Mount Wilson Bicycling Association led monthly volunteer work days on the trail from November to July. Several volunteer work days were sponsored by local bike shops including Incycle, Pasadena Cyclery, Golden Saddle Cyclery and Montrose Cyclery. There was so much enthusiasm for the project that a few days there were more volunteers than tools.
Generous grants from REI and Southern California Edison enabled CORBA to hire professional trail builders, Bellfree Contractors, to complete some of the more technical work.
By far, the majority of the work was done by 102 dedicated volunteers on 283 volunteer days. The 1,900 volunteer hours equates to over $60,000 in value for the Forest Service.
“When we assessed the trail in 2016, given the extent of the damage, it was hard to imagine getting the trail back at all,” Messer said. “But now, thanks to a monumental team effort, the trail is back.”
“This project couldn’t have been done without the hard work and incredible dedication of our volunteers,” said Fabian Garcia, Partnership Coordinator for the Angeles National Forest. ”Our ANF volunteer organizations set a high bar of collaboration and excellence. The Gabrielino Trail Restoration Project is a perfect example of both.”
A volunteer appreciation celebration has been organized by the MWBA in Loma Alta Park in Altadena on Sunday, Sept. 2, from noon to 3 p.m. CORBA, the Forest Service, REI, local bike shops and clubs will all be on hand. Many groups are planning to ride, hike, run, bikepack or backpack the trail in the days leading up to the celebration.
“It’s a much-loved trail that we know a lot of people have been eager to use,” said Jenny Johnson, MWBA president. “We are so grateful and proud of our volunteers. It’s mind-boggling what we can accomplish on our trails by harnessing the passion of our dedicated volunteers.”