Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Chautauqua Talks: Mountain Biking in the Santa Monica Mountains

Monday, March 2nd, 2015
Victor Vincente is a pioneer of the sport

Victor Vincente is a local pioneer of the sport

You’re invited to a free presentation by one of CORBA’s and IMBA’s founders, Jim Hasenauer. The presentation is called “Mountain Biking in the Santa Monicas” and is a part of the MRCA Chautuaqua Talk Series.

An appreciation of off-road bicycling in the Santa Monica Mountains with a focus on its history, its growth, bike advocacy, and relations with other trail users. Once called the “new kids on the block”, mountain bicyclists have now been riding the trails and contributing to the trails community for more than thirty years. Come learn about the evolution of the sport, public policy, and sustainable trail design. Learn where to ride, what to ride and how to ride. What does the future hold for mountain bicyclists in the Santa Monica Mountains NRA?

The talk will be held in Woodland Hall at the Temescal Gateway Park, 15601 W. Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades (Map).

Scouting the trails of newly re-opened Pt Mugu State Park

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Here is what I found when I rode all the multi-use trails a few days after Pt Mugu State Park re-opened on January 30th. The park had been closed since mid-December when heavy rains brought mudslides to the fire-denuded park. During the closure, heavy equipment was used to clear up the extensive damage on the fire roads, and small groups of volunteers were fixing some bad spots on singletrack trails, using hand tools. In fact, volunteer groups will be converging on the park throughout February to help fix the trails. You can help! Here’s the schedule: 2015-01-22 PMSP Trailwork Schedule.

My first impression was that there were a lot of people in the park for a Tuesday morning. No doubt they were as curious about its condition as I was. (There are a number of photos below that show a typical condition, and a much larger photo gallery to show more trail problems, large and small.) One pleasant surprise was that the wildflowers are coming out, in abundance in some places. I’ve included pictures of some of them in the photo gallery.

I entered the park from the north end, through Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. There are signs posted at the entrance to Pt Mugu State Park (PMSP) indicating that you can’t get through to the coast, and that there is no water in the park.

On the main Sycamore Canyon Fireroad, there were numerous shallow mudslides that had come down the hill and crossed the road. Some were narrow and others were quite wide. All of them had been cleaned up. The whole road was smooth and quite broad. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the campground because the road was closed south of the point where Overlook Fireroad comes into it.

Piles of dirt that were removed from the main Sycamore Canyon Fireroad.

Sin Nombre and Two Foxes Trails had had lots of tiny mudflows across them, leaving small ridges perpendicular to the trail. They make for a bit of a bumpy ride. There were several ruts in the hillside above and below the trail where a small stream crossed, but did very little or no damage to the trail. There were a few spots where larger streams did damage the trail, leaving ruts and/or rocks and dirt.

A small stream crossed Sin Nombre but did little damage to the trail.

On the Wood Canyon Vista Trail, a segment of the Backbone Trail, there were five notable kinds of features on the trail. Most noticeable was the lack of serviceable drainage dips. Of the 84 drains we installed after the Springs Fire in 2013, almost all were choked with debris, and many couldn’t even be distinguished from the rest of the trail. Large stretches of trail had mud and water flowing across it, leaving small ridges perpendicular to the trail. Other large stretches had water running down the trail, removing all the dirt and sand, leaving a very rocky surface. The clay stretch about 2/3 of the way up has become deeply trenched and rutted. Finally, some trailwork has already been done, and there the surface was generally smoother and outsloped, but slightly loose.

Water running down the Wood Canyon Vista Trail has removed most of the dirt, leaving a lot of exposed rocks.

Climbing the old ranch road section of Guadalasca, I saw a lot of damage. However, it was mostly easy to avoid because the trail there follows an old wide roadbed. The top 20% of the singletrack downhill, where we had worked after the Springs Fire, was in very good shape. However, it was a different story for the rest, where it had already been quite rutted. Most of it was only slightly worse, but the worst sections were much worse than they had been. You can avoid the ruts now by using the very edge of the trail, but that won’t be an option once the vegetation grows up again. In the two places where the trail crossed a small stream with a culvert under the trail, the culvert had become blocked and the upstream streambed was completely filled with silt, while below the trail, the streambed was scoured down to bare rocks. The trail crossing the stream had acted as a dam and held back the dirt and rocks that were washing downstream. Finally, the lower old ranch road section had also become much more rutted, and the culverts under the trail had become exposed.

A really bad section on Guadalasca

During the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Day in April 2014, a large group of volunteers essentially rebuilt the Sage Trail. After the December flooding, the trail remains mostly intact, but we were very lucky that it wasn’t annihilated. The trail runs near the outside edge of an old roadbed. For most of it’s length, water and mud streamed down between the trail and the hillside creating a wide trench, crossing the trail occasionally and flowing off the edge. Most of the armoring rock walls we built to protect previous washouts were intact, but the water flowed around them to enlarge the washouts, generally on the downhill side. Two of the armoring walls didn’t fare well at all.

The next heavy rain may obliterate sections of the Sage Trail if the rut gets much wider.

Finally, here’s what you can see in one spot at the side of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail.

California Poppies at the side of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail

Don’t forget, you can help restore the trails! Here’s the schedule for volunteer work days: 2015-01-22 PMSP Trailwork Schedule.

Pt. Mugu SP Closure Update

Monday, January 12th, 2015

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs reported earlier this month, Point Mugu State Park has been closed to the public while the damage to the trails is being assessed and repaired. Heavy equipment has been working to reestablish Sycamore Canyon and the public is still being asked to stay out of the park until such time as it is safe. Trucks will be bringing in dirt from the slides that covered Pacific Coast Highway to aid in repair. State Parks’ Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap stated that the closure will extend until February 1, but that all attempts will be made to lift the closure sooner if possible.

Click here to see additional photos by Craig Sap of the mud slides effecting PCH and Point Mugu State Park.

Below is current trail damage assessment of the condition of the trails in Point Mugu State Park:

Blue Canyon Trail: Fair

Chumash Trail: Good

Chamberlain Trail: Excellent

Coastal Trail: Gone

Coyote Trail: Lower portion covered with debris

Fire Line Trail: Unknown

Fossil Trail: Poor condition

Great Dune View Trail: Good

Guadalasca Trail: Fair

Hidden Pond Connector Trail: Good

Hidden Pond Trail: 25% of repairs Complete

La Jolla Canyon Trail: Devastated

La Jolla Valley Loop Trail:  75% of repairs complete

La Jolla Valley Connector Trail: Fair

La Jolla Pond Trail: Cleared

Mugu Peak Loop Trail: Debris across trail needs to be smoothed out

Mugu Peak Spur Trail: Good

Old Boney Trail: Fair from Sycamore to Blue Canyon

Old Cabin Trail: Poor

Ray Miller Trail: 25% of repairs complete

 Sage Trail: Excellent

Scenic Trail: Fair

Serrano Canyon Trail: Good

Serrano Valley Loop Trail: Minor erosion

Serrano Valley Trail: Old Roadbed from gate has several large washouts, all stream crossings need rebuilding

Sin Nombre Trail: Fair

Sycamore Creek Trail: Heavy Damage to Stairs and Gabions                                 

Tri Peaks Trail: Unknown

Two Foxes Trail: Debris flows across the trail at the drainage crossings

Upper Sycamore Trail: Devastated

 Waterfall Trail: Good

Wood Canyon Vista Trail: Good

 

Opening of Pt Mugu State Park Delayed

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015
Mud has buried the main Sycamore Canyon Trail. Photo by Dave Edwards.

Mud and rocks have buried the main Sycamore Canyon Trail. Photo by Dave Edwards.

When we first posted this blog in mid-December, State Parks anticipated that they would have Pt Mugu State Park open around January 12th. However, Caltrans has determined that it will take at least until the end of January before the Pacific Coast Highway can be re-opened, so the park closure will be extended.

We’ll update this information when we have more to share.

The original article follows…

The rainstorm that swept through the area late last week resulted in several large mudslides in Point Mugu State Park (AKA Sycamore Canyon). As a result, the park has been closed at least until January 12th, 2015. During this time, State Parks staff will be assessing the damage, cleaning up the mess and coordinating volunteers to help with the cleanup.

The mudslides are the direct result of the hillsides being denuded by the Springs Fire in 2013 and over 3″ of rain that fell in one night.

More photos of the damage can be seen in this photo gallery.

You can find the status of the park at the Pt Mugu State Park website home page.

Please stay out of the park until it reopens, for your safety, to prevent further damage to the trails, and to enable a more speedy cleanup.

President’s Message: A Look Back at 2014

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

As we prepare to ring in the new year, it’s a good time to reflect on what has happened over the past twelve months. Here’s a quick recap of CORBA’s most significant efforts of 2014.

strawberry peak trail crew Volunteers, February 16, 2014

Volunteers, February 16, 2014

Trailwork:  One of our biggest accomplishments in 2014 was the restoration of the Strawberry Peak Loop in spring, and the subsequent opening of the trail by the Forest Service on May 28. This much-loved trail was the focus of CORBA, The Sierra Club, and the Los Angeles Conservation Corps as we coordinated efforts to get the trail ready for opening. We were aided by a grant from REI which allowed us to bring in a professional trailbuilder for much of the heavier work. The restoration included a short re-route of one section of the trail that had always been troublesome.  Another planned re-route of the northern end of the Strawberry Peak trail through to Colby ranch is currently in the NEPA process, but the main Strawberry Peak loop used by cyclists is open and has been enjoyed all summer and fall. We also helped restore trails damaged in the Springs fire in Point Mugu State Park, worked on the Backbone trail, and our adopted Los Robles trail. For 2015 we are enlisting some new trail crew leaders, as we look to expand our trailwork activities.

 

CORBA's Youth Adventures

CORBA’s Youth Adventures

Youth Programs:  In 2014 our Youth Adventures program continued in full swing, with Mountain Bike Unit (MBU) volunteers taking at-risk youth out on the trails throughout the year.  We added another special event to our calendar, the Santa Monica Mountains Rec Fest, during which we put more than 200 kids on bikes at Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Rec Fest was a great addition to the calendar, and we are hoping that funding can be found to repeat the event. In 2014 our Kids Club program was picked up by Carl Kolvenbach who is leading these monthly social rides for kids and their parents.

 

Skills Clinics: For the first Saturday of every month this year, and the past twenty years, we conducted our free Introduction to Mountain Biking Skills Clinics at Malibu Creek State Park. Hundreds of people learned basic skills at our free clinics this year. This free service will continue through 2015 and beyond.

 

Fillmore Bike Park Jump Line

Fillmore Bike Park Jump Line

Bike Parks:  Fillmore Bike Park construction is well underway. We worked with local advocates from Ride Heritage Valley and the City of Fillmore to bring a new bike park to the town. Construction began in the fall and is ongoing. The park will be opened to the public in 2015, a great asset to the local community.  In Thousand Oaks the plans for Sapwi Trails Community Park are in their final steps to approval. The plans include a pump track and dirt jumps for bikes, along with multi-use trails. We’re excited to see this facility approved and look forward to its construction. We still have pending proposals before L.A. County, and we hope to see continued progress on those proposals in the new year.

 

National Forest Management Plans:  2014 also saw the completion of the four SoCal National Forests Land Management Plan Amendments. During this five-year process we engaged with the Forest Service on the re-examination of their land management plans. The Forest Service was sued for not providing adequate protections for threatened and endangered species, and the settlement agreement had the Forest Service reassess areas of the four Forests for increased protections. The outcome of that process was the proposed Fish Canyon Recommended Wilderness. We filed a formal objection to the RW, as it would close three long-distance backcountry trails to bikes. Though these were not popular trails and hardly saw any use over the past several years, they are still a loss of opportunity to the mountain biking community. The final record of decision was a happy compromise: We now have a recommended wilderness area, but the trails will remain open to bikes until such time as a forest order is issued to specifically close the trails to bicycles.

President Obama signs the proclamation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

President Obama signs the proclamation

National Monument: One of the biggest surprises of the year was the announcement and soon thereafter, the proclamation of the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. While we were all taken by surprise with this announcement, the outcome, our new National Monument, will help the Forest Service attract more resources to the area and bring more attention to our beloved mountains. CORBA will be actively participating in the development of the Management Plan for the National Monument, both as a part of the NEPA process, and as a part of a collaborative group brought together by the National Forest Foundation to ensure as much public engagement as possible in that process.

 

 

Bell boxes contain bells   which are free to all users. Please use a bell!

Bell boxes contain bells which are free to all users. Please use a bell!

Trail Safety: Over this past year CORBA engaged with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council to strategize on trail safety. We developed an educational trail etiquette brochure, which is now being distributed throughout the area. The brochure has been very well-received. In 2015 we will expand upon those efforts by developing a companion trail etiquette web site. We have received a grant from the Trails and Greenways Foundation to achieve this goal. CORBA has also implemented a bell program in the Conejo Valley, and we now have several different style bells available for purchase.

 

CORBA Board: In 2014 we welcomed Wendy Engelberg to our board of directors, and the bundle of energy and enthusiasm she brings. Steve Messer took over from Mark Langton as board President, while Jennifer Klausner completed her final year as Executive Director of the LA County Bicycle Coalition. We have open seats on our board and welcome any inquiries or nominations.

 

A few losses: We lost our battle with State Parks over the revision of the California Code of Regulations pertaining to trail use in State Parks. While a win would have changed nothing with regards to existing trails, we felt the language we proposed was more welcoming to all trail users and a better regulation for new trails. State Parks leadership were chided for a mismanaged public process in developing the new regulations, which have since been sent back into the public process. However, it has become obvious that no amount of public engagement is going to change what State Parks wanted in the first place, a regulation that makes it more difficult to open trails to bikes.

California State Parks have been under much scrutiny with the Parks Forward Commission releasing findings of numerous areas that need improvement in the administration of our State Parks. Their plan will be released sometime in 2015. We are hoping to see some of the recommendations of the commission implemented, but the reforms will likely be difficult in this chronically mismanaged agency.

Looking forward to 2015, we’ll be as busy as ever. We’ll continue to work with State Parks, the National Park Service, the Forest Service, Los Angeles County, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency and local cities and conservancies. We’ll continue to monitor trail access issues. We’ll continue to advocate for more trail opportunities. We’ll continue to work with IMBA at the national level, and our neighboring IMBA Chapters and other trail organizations locally and state-wide.

At the moment we know of at least three major issues that will get our full attention in 2015. The first is the previously mentioned San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Management Plan.

Next is the Santa Monica Mountain Trails Master Plan. This plan has been in development for more than 12 years, and is the primary reason that State Parks have not yet followed through on their obligation to assess existing trails for bicycle use. We expect public hearings on the trail master plan to begin mid-winter. This will be one of the most important processes for you to stay involved with, and will determine the future of bicycle access to trails in the Santa Monica Mountains for decades to come.

Rim of the Valley Study Area

Rim of the Valley Study Area

The Rim of the Valley Corridor Study will also be released in Winter 2015. This study is examining the mountains surrounding the San Fernando, Simi, Conejo, and Crescenta and San Rafael valleys for an integrated management approach. This study has implications for trail connectivity, resource protection, wildlife corridors and more.

We need your support. CORBA, with it’s small but dedicated crew of volunteers, has a lot on our plate for 2015. But if we are to accomplish everything on our agenda for 2015, we’ll need some help from you. We depend on your support and your membership dollars. You have renewed your membership, right?  In addition to your membership, attending public meetings and submitting your comments on issues that affect our trails is the most important thing you can do.  Of course, volunteering to do trailwork is the most tangible ways you can make a difference. Join our Meetup group to stay up to date on our activities. We also welcome help in areas of graphic design, public relations/marketing, fundraising and grantwriting. If you’d like to just stay on top of what’s happening and get some of the inside scoop, consider attending our monthly board meetings.

Get out and ride. Stay informed and involved. Remember to be courteous to other trail users. Thanks for your support through a great 2014, and have a wonderful, happy and prosperous 2015!

5 Bell Boxes Installed Along Thousand Oaks Trails

Monday, December 29th, 2014
Bell boxes contain bells   which are free to all users. Please use a bell!

Bell boxes contain bells which are free to all users. Please use a bell!

Over the last month five bell boxes have been installed and stocked along the Los Robles and Rosewood Trails in the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA) areas. This is a joint project between CORBA, the Conejo Open Space Foundation (COSF), COSCA, and local Eagle Scout Michael Young, who constructed and placed the boxes. Two thousand bells were purchased by CORBA and COSF, and local volunteers will be stocking them.IMG_2149 In just under one month nearly 300 bells have been placed in the boxes, with several re-stockings already having taken place, which means the bells are being used. Bells are free and are not expected to be returned. Using a bell is a win/win situation on the trails as it alerts others that you are approaching and helps to eliminate the “startle factor” that so many users complain about when citing negative experiences with bikes on the trails.

CORBA’s Trail Safety and Etiquette Education Campaign

Monday, December 15th, 2014

During the past year, CORBA met with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council and State Parks representatives with the goal of improving safety on the trails of the Santa Monica Mountains. CORBA and the Trails Council both recognize the need for better education and outreach to the trail community. There has been a large increase in the numbers of visitors to the Santa Monica Mountains over the past decade. This increase in use has led to an increase in the potential for conflict and incidents on the trails.

Trail Etiquette Tri-fold Brochure_01One of the biggest factors in safety on trails is the speed differential between mountain bikes–especially going downhill–and other trail users. It’s the reason there’s a 15mph speed limit on all trails and fire roads in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. There has been a commitment to increase enforcement of these rules by State Parks and the NPS, but we believe that education is vital to reducing incidents or accidents on trails.

The outcome of those meetings was the development of a new Trail Etiquette brochure (pictured to the right). The brochure is being widely distributed in the area. We hope to educate all trail users on trail etiquette best practices. As a CORBA supporter you already know to slow down, yield to other trail users and be courteous. But many hikers don’t know that bikes are supposed to yield, many cyclists don’t know what to do when they come across equestrian trail users. The brochure attempts to explain what it means, in the most practical sense, to yield the trail. It also explains the responsibilities of all trail users in clear and simple terms.

As we developed the brochure it became clear that this information needs to be more widely distributed. It’s applicable to all non-motorized trails and trail users anywhere. CORBA applied for a grant from the California Trails and Greenways Foundation to put trail etiquette information on the web. We’re excited to announce that the grant was approved earlier in December, and we’ve begun working on a new web site entirely devoted to trail etiquette. Look for an announcement in the coming months when we launch the new web site.

 

 

West End of Etz Meloy Gets Another Gate

Friday, October 31st, 2014

IMG_2132CORBA was alerted to the fact that a private property owner at the west end of Etz Meloy Motorway (a section of the Backbone Trail) at Yerba Buena Road has erected a second, new gate to deter the public from using the route. From the National Park Service:
The 1-mile stretch of Etz Meloy Mtwy. heading east from Yerba Buena Rd. is not open to the public.  The stretch of Etz Meloy Mtwy. across this area is not to be used by trail visitors. By using it, visitors will only aggravate the situation.

CORBA reminds everyone to respect private property and not go over/around the gate as this action is not only illegal, it can also jeopardize negotiations with the landowners and NPS moving toward some kind of easement agreement.

An earlier blog has more details, history and several comments on the gate that prevents access to the Etz Meloy Mtwy from the west end.

BBT_EtzMeloyGap_Nov17_2011

Sequioa, Inyo and Sierra Forest Plans Hinder Sharing the PCT Campaign

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

 

Access to many trails could be affected by new Wilderness

Access to many trails could be affected by new Wilderness

The three major National Forests of the Southern Sierras are currently in the process of updating their Forest Management Plans. They are developing their plans under the guidelines of the new 2012 planning process. As they are among the first forests to do so, they are being referred to as “early-adopters” of the new planning process.

Part of the 2012 planning process requires the forests to evaluate areas of the forest they may be suitable for addition into the Wilderness Protection System. Currently, a large proportion of all three of these forests are designated Wilderness and are off-limits to bicycles. Many people heeding the environmentalists calls for wilderness at any cost, don’t realize that this greatly impacts recreational access. We are objecting to any new wilderness areas in these plans.

Another aspect of the plan calls for the designation of a Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail Corridor. The provisions prohibit any trail that allows bicycles or motorcycles to even CROSS the PCT, and gives the Pacific Crest Trail Association veto power over any trails that lie within that corridor, even if they are not the PCT. This is extremely troublesome, and may even be illegal.

As you may be aware, a group of people have been actively urging the forest service to review the order that closed the PCT to bicycles in 1988. The decision to close the PCT was never publicly reviewed, as required by the forest service own management guidelines and public law. Portions of this plan would circumvent that legally required public process, and making the ban on bicycles permanent. In the opinion of many, the current ban on bicycles was enacted in the same way a temporary order would be enacted, and is required to be reviewed regularly.

CORBA submitted the following comments on the plans, as this affects not only the PCT where it passes through the Sierras, but also has ramifications for our local portions of the PCT in the Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland National Forests. The comment period originally expired Monday, after only 30 days with a very poor public outreach effort. Comments are now being accepted an additional three days, ending tomorrow, October 3rd, 2014. Until then you still have a chance to submit comments here.

IMBA’s suggested talking points include:

  • The plan should include a trail planning Objective that will allow for a purposefully designed trail system, including bicycles.
  • Object to management that furthers the bicycle closure order on the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • Object to the delegation of any inherently governmental decision making authority to the Pacific Crest Trail Association.
  • Mountain bikers can be a huge asset to the PCT—we contribute 700,000 volunteer hours annually to trail stewardship.

For more information and suggestions on what to write in your comments, visit the following:

 

 

San Gabriels National Monument Update

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

2014-0925-Pasadena_Star_NewsOn Thursday, September 25, 2014, an article appeared in the Pasadena Star News and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune about the growing support for a National Monument designation for our local San Gabriel Mountains. The story fails to mention any opposition to the proposal, which is also growing. In it, the author states that:

“Chu has met with the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association and the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association since members of the group attended a town hall Aug. 26 in Baldwin Park. 

“The cyclists’ concerns about a national monument were addressed when it was explained that mountain biking is very compatible with a national monument designation,” Chu said in a statement.”

This is not exactly correct. Chu has not yet met with us, though we would welcome and look forward to such a meeting. However, staff members of IMBA, our parent organization, did meet with her staff in Washington DC and receive those assurances. We have learned from several different sources that recreational uses of the forest, including mountain biking, would continue unaffected under a new designation. In fact, we’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks as we work with supporters of the monument proposal.

We have been working with IMBA, MWBA, San Gabriel Mountains Forever, the Conservation Land Trust and the Wilderness Society to prepare a set of FAQ’s to answer some of the many questions surrounding this proposal. We are also working on on a joint statement from all these groups expressing our conditional support for a monument that ensures our continued access to trails by bicycle, and other recreational uses.

Look for those FAQ’s here on our web site in the coming days.