Backbone Trail Maintenance June 2010

By Mark Langton 

Latigo Canyon section of the Backbone Trail just west of Newton Mtwy.

Over the last couple of weeks some new maintenance has occurred on the Backbone Trail along sections at Solstice and Latigo Canyons (National Park Service-held property). The crew that did the work is unknown at this time, but it is assumed that it was National Park Service or contracted by them.  It was very professionally done. Hand-worked tread leveling and minor widening has taken place, with a few sections being filled in with soft dirt. The depth of these short fill sections does not exceed one inch at their deepest. 

The trail heading east from Newton Motorway: Natural rock formations along the upper section and at the bottom as it enters the canyon bottom  have been left intact.  Switchbacks were left intact or filled slightly. 

Another section of the Backbone West of Newton Mtwy. where some rock was left in the tread.

The section of trail most affected is directly to the west of Newton Motorway. The tread surface of the first half-mile of this mildly rolling, somewhat technical section has been leveled and filled, and slightly widened, and three or four short rocky sections were removed, making it much less technical. Further to the west, where the trail has notoriously seen heavy erosion due to its steep pitch, it has been slightly re-routed and leveled, and several drainages have been added to assist with water runoff. This is a significant improvement for both uphill and downhill travel.  When contacted by CORBA, Melanie Beck, an outdoor recreation planner for the National Park Service, stated that the work was considered routine and done for resource maintenance and safety concerns. At the time of this report no information was available regarding any additional trail work in the immediate future. 

Over the last 23 years I have seen this type of trail work and it is indeed not out of the ordinary, nor is it overly aggressive (of which I have also seen). In fact, the soft sections of tread surface resemble that of a just-completed new trail. Compacting will take place over the next few months with use and moisture, and hydro-erosion will begin sculpting ruts and other natural formations. Climbing the filled sections was a little more work than usual, but they should get packed down soon enough. And descending required only slightly more attention paid to washing out. I am a little disappointed that the short rocky sections were removed, but that’s a personal selfishness—the trail is still a blast and is one of the best and most scenic sections in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

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4 Responses to “Backbone Trail Maintenance June 2010”

  1. Douglas Kubler says:

    I rode Kanan-Corral on the 28th. If the weathering will scuplt the trail why waste labor on creating so much loose soil? They should leave the tread as is.

    I am disappointed that the rocks were removed for safety. The maintenance has created new dangers. (1) Descents & switchbacks with loose soil. (2) Angled depressions optimized to divert one’s wheel.

    They can justify removing rocks but how do they justify removing roots? The root-dominated switchback has been turned into useless mush.

  2. mark says:

    I agree that sometimes they might as well leave it as is. However, the new conditions are no more or less dangerous than other conditions that have existed in the past/will exist in the future. Loose dirt is part of riding mountain bikes on trails. It’s a new challenge, and the trail is still open. What’s the problem? BTW, I totally agree with you about the switchback that had the root removed. I wish they would have consulted us/Hans K. I have a feeling there was not enough oversight with regard to the trail crew.

  3. Douglas Kubler says:

    How does one submit photos with comments like Mark Langton did?

  4. John Wallace says:

    I have to agree with D. Kubler and most our your comments Mark – and also note that overwhelming response of trail users that I have talked with about the trail work – very dissappointed that the rocky sections and root/rocks on the swithback were removed. These features have existed as long as I have been riding the trail (15 years; there were more, but about 10 years ago, some equally disaapointing “work” was done), so the safety concern seems more than lame. About 90% of the work was fine, the tread may be a bit soft for a few moths, but will be fine soon. But the effort put forth to remove rocks and smooth out the trail is absurd. This is a fairly demanding trail – not many novice riders, if any – so why, why, why… Lack of oversight, yes, but also misplaced priorities. WIth the same amount of effort, they could have cleared brush for 30 miles.

    The photo with “some rock left in the tread” is a really bad joke – this used to be a really fun and challenging section! A few weeks ago I was riding with a friend and he made this section for the first time – he was so pumped! Beyond this section to the east, the work was well-done, including filling in a washed out corner (which also was fun as-is, but I can see fixing it); however, they then demolished another short, rocky section (which they should have left alone – zero reason to remove it). It just goes to show that 90% good is overwhelmed by 10% bad….

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