Archive for the ‘Trail Access’ Category

West End of Etz Meloy Gets New 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:

 

 

President’s Message: A National Monument?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
Recently created Fort Ord National Monument ensures continued bicycle access

Recently created Fort Ord National Monument ensures continued bicycle access

Just two weeks ago the public learned of a movement to have the San Gabriel Mountains declared a National Monument. The news came as a surprise, and we had little time to look deeper into what this meant. Last week’s public meeting did serve one purpose well, to get the discussion–and the emotions–going. The sudden announcement caught everyone’s attention, all the way up to the Undersecretary for the Department of Agriculture. This meant that it was happening quickly, and the process was already underway. It’s in all our best interest to be a part of that process, whether or not the final outcome is a new National Monument.

Since last week’s public meeting, we’ve had time to begin a dialog with conservationists and other stakeholders and to do some research of our own. We now understand the Forest Service would continue to manage the land under a National Monument designation. We learned that recently declared For Ord National Monument has language specifically mentioning bicyclists as legitimate trail users, and directs that bicycles are accommodated in a transportation/trail plan. This is an extremely positive precedent which encourages us. We’ve had several verbal assurances that mountain biking access would not be impacted, and that similar language could be developed for this proposal.

As we begin to be involved in the development of that language, we are working with our fellow chapters, IMBA staff, and other stakeholders to ensure our continued ability to ride mountain bikes on the trails and fire roads we love, and to improve overall conditions in the forest (through better protections and additional funding). A well-written National Monument proclamation and any additional funding it brings may be preferable to the Angeles NF continuing to be underfunded and understaffed, or even a wilderness bill that would close off access to trails.

There are many competing interests for National Forest land. There are those interested in protecting it, developing it, and just recreating in it. The challenge will be to get the balance between those interests right. If a National Monument proclamation does move forward, as it appears to be, we need to be involved in its development and included in the outcome.

In the meantime remember to make time to ride. Every time we do so we remind ourselves why our local mountains are important to us. They’re important enough to protect, and important enough to want to ensure that our grandkids can enjoy similar trail experiences, and similar ways to connect with nature.

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument meeting, August 26th, 2014

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Supervisor Tom Contreras intLast night an overflowing crowd packed into the Baldwin Park Performing Arts Center to hear from a panel of “experts” about the future of the San Gabriel Mountains. Among the honored guests and panel of experts were Robert Bonnie, the undersecretary for the Department of Agriculture, Tom Tidwell, Chief Forester of the Forest Service, Randy Moore, Regional Forester for the Southwest United States, and congressmen Judy Chu, Los Angeles County Supervisor-elect Hilda Solis, Janice Rutherford, San Bernardino Board of Supervisors Chairperson. Local politicians and wilderness advocates rounded out the panel, with Victor Diaz, chair of the Friends of the Angeles group, as the sole “user group” representative.

Also in the room were Tom Contreras, Supervisor of the Angeles National Forest, as well as Jody Noiron, Supervisor of the San Bernardino National Forest, and all of their respective district rangers. In fact there were more Forest Service staff and volunteers on hand than any event or public meeting I’ve ever had the privilege to attend.

The auditorium was packed to capacity, with over 200 people unable to enter the room because room capacity has been reached. The WIlderness Society and San Gabriel Mountains Forever group were offering free buses to the meeting, helping explain the huge turnout.

We learned from Tom Tidwell that a number of improvements will be happening in 2015, including new staff hires, new signage and other improvements to the forest. Trail Crews from the Los Angeles Conservation Corps and Urban Youth League are out continuing to restore and repair trails.

The panel were each asked a single orchestrated question by Oscar Gonzales, California State Executive Director of the Farm Services Agency, who also flew out from Washington DC. Their answers were well-orchestrated, mostly singing the potential praises of a National Monument. There were no specific plans or proposals revealed. Only Janice Rutherford from San Bernardino County asked the important questions: how will this be managed, what is the management plan, how will this be funded, how will economic development (for areas such as Wrightwood), recreation and conservation be balanced and impacted. Most importantly, why is this happening so suddenly with no outreach or input to her community?

I could ask the same… why no outreach to our community (of mountain bikers)?

In fact, for all the talk of how this process is starting, there was not even an opportunity to ask questions, and oversized postcards were the only means given to submit anonymous comments. There are no resources or commenting options available online.

After the meeting, in my conversations with the wilderness advocates, and with Tom TIdwell by Jenny from Mount Wilson Bicycling Association, we were given some verbal assurances: That the Forest Service would continue to manage the proposed National Monument, and that the intent is to continue to allow all forms of recreation currently allowed. These verbal assurances, while comforting, came with a caveat of “no guarantees.”

The stature of the dignitaries in town for this theater of support that there has to have been some very high-level discussions and planning going on behind the scenes. But for this meeting, the first real public outreach, nobody was able to refer to a specific plan, the language of the proclamation, nor discuss the ulterior motives of those behind the plan.

For that we need to dig a little further into the history of the efforts to “protect” the San Gabriel Mountains. In 2003 Hilda Solis and Barbara Boxer introduced the San Gabriel Watershed Study, to determine the area’s suitability for a National Recreation Area. Separately, The Congressionally authorized Rim of the Valley Study has been taking place over a similar time span. Most recently, the four Southern California National Forests were charged with re-assessing and amending their management plan, with a greater emphasis on protecting the landscape for threatened and endangered species habitat protection. We are still waiting on the final outcome of that land management plan amendment, but as of our last meetings, the Fish Canyon area north of Castaic was being proposed as a Recommended Wilderness. Additionally, David Drier introduced a wilderness bill in 2011, and Congressman Buck McKeon is currently considering another.

The San Gabriel Mountains Forever group, with close ties to the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club, have been lobbying hard for additional resources and protection for the San Gabriel Mountains.

Congressman Judy Chu has introduced two bills, one to create a National Recreation Area, the other to declare many thousands of acres of new Wilderness, including Condor Peak, Fish Canyon, Red Mountain and other areas. The Forest Service’ own Land Management Plan amendments determined that Condor Peak and Red Mountain were a) not suitable for wilderness protection, and b) would be provided little if any additional “protection” by a Wilderness designation. We have to ask why does Chu’s bill ask for these additional wilderness areas that have been fought over and removed from previous wilderness legislation, and found unsuitable? Our official comments on that plan reflected this. Her National Recreation Area bill was similarly vague on specifics, and we thought, premature.

Frustration with the lack of congressional support for those bills is what supposedly drove Chu to petition the White House for a National Monument declaration, which bypasses congress and the debate and scrutiny it would receive there. The President, under the Antiquities Act, can declare a National Monument without the support of Congress.

At this time we simply do not have enough information to make an informed decision as to whether the National Monument is a good idea that will help Forest visitors, or one that will just add an additional layer of bureaucracy. The way some of the panel gushed about the plan, one could be led to believe that the declaration would instantly take care of overflowing trash, lack of bathrooms and facilities, trail maintenance, graffiti and other problems. But there has been no talk of how much, if any, additional funding this would bring, now how it will be managed and implemented.

We’d like to see the San Gabriel Mountains receive a new influx of funding and staff. We’d like to see better services and infrastructure needed to protect the mountains, and continue to allow us to recreate responsibly. A National Monument may in fact be the vehicle to get us there. We simply don’t have enough detailed information to make that decision.

We plan to meet with congress members whose districts include portions of the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as the conservationists that are lobbying hard for this. Until we have some face-to-face time with these people, and have answers to our questions, we must remain officially neutral, while at the same time being guardedly optimistic for the future of our beloved mountains.

Action Alert! Protect Mountain Bike Access

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

From our Friends to the north, Santa Clarita Valley Trail Users:

Dear Friends,

Congressman “Buck” McKeon is holding a Town Hall meeting to discuss a proposal to designate approximately 40,000 acres just north of Castaic Lake as a federally protected Wilderness area.  This proposed Wilderness area could potentially include the Fish Canyon, Salt Creek, Elderberry Canyon, Tule and Red Mountain areas on the northeast side of Castaic Lake.  All of these areas are very close to Tapia Canyon where the majority of mountain biking occurs in Santa Clarita AND which will likely be lost to development in the not too distant future.

Even though many of us would support the protection and preservation of our public lands, it is important to note that the Wilderness designation severely limits recreation on such lands.  Specifically, cycling or mountain biking is prohibited in Wilderness areas because they are “mechanized”.  Access is only allowed on foot or horseback.

Already, the federal government has set aside very large Wilderness areas near Santa Clarita including the Magic Mountain Wilderness (just south of the 14 Freeway near Canyon Country), the Sespe Wilderness (just north of Fillmore and Santa Paula), and the San Rafael Wilderness (just east of Ventura and Santa Barbara).  This is why you can’t ride a mountain bike in the mountains above Fillmore and why there are so few mountain bike trails in the Ventura/Santa Barbara area.  We think these three Wilderness areas near Santa Clarita are more than enough.

For this reason, we encourage you to attend next week’s Town Hall meeting to let Congressman McKeon know that you object to the Wilderness designation of these additional areas near Castaic Lake because it would permanently prohibit mountain biking.  The current designation of Backcountry – Non-motorized or something else more protective (such as a Special Conservation Area) would be preferred so long as mountain biking continues to be allowed.

Here are the details of the Town Hall meeting:

Date:  Tuesday, August 19

Time:  10:30AM

Where: Santa Clarita City Hall, Century Room

Address:  23920 Valencia Boulevard, Santa Clarita, CA  91355

Thank you for your continued support.

SCV Trail Users

Safe and Equal Access for All Trail Users

SCVTrailUsers@gmail.com

Sullivan Canyon Closure Update August 11

Monday, August 11th, 2014

From SoCal Gas:

Sullivan Canyon will be closed to visitors Tuesday August 12th for a Hydro-Static Pressure test of the natural gas transmission pipelines. Please schedule your visit accordingly.

This closure if for safety reasons so please do not access the canyon from any of the side trails. The canyon will be open again on Wednesday provided there are no problems with the test. Please use caution as you pass construction equipment, and we recommend keeping dogs on a leash so they are not harmed by equipment as well.

For information, contact:

Mike Harriel

Public Affairs Manager

Regional Public Affairs

555 W. 5th St.

Los Angeles, Ca. 90013

Office: 213 244-4633

Sullivan Canyon Work Update, July 3

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The latest news from Mike Harriel of So Cal Gas regarding construction as they move closer to the mandated test on its pipelines in Sullivan Canyon.

Beginning July 8th

·         We will conduct a bird survey to determine if any nesting birds are in the area of our work. If there are, the project will be delayed.

·         If all is well with the nesting birds, we will work with a certified arborist to trim trees that could sustain damaged by construction equipment. The trimming will occur at the direction of the arborist and only the minimum necessary.

·         An active beehive will have to be removed for the safety of our employees and users of the canyon.

 Beginning July 14th

·         Construction mobilization will occur. You will notice the moving in of water tanks and other construction equipment. Tanks and equipment will be staged away from the trail. All soil will be returned to the excavation it is removed from.

·         A fire prevention plan is in effect to protect the canyon.

 As mentioned previously, the canyon trail will remain open. Signs will provide advance notice when the canyon is closed for hydro testing, which will occur over the course of one day. Signs will also be posted at the drop-in trails. For safety reasons, we don’t want any members of the public dropping in to the canyon during the test, so please abide by the posted closing.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Mike Harriel

Public Affairs Manager

Office: 213 244-4633

More Work Scheduled for Sullivan Canyon in June

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Since 1960, Southern California Gas Company (“SoCaIGas”) has owned much of the land that comprises Sullivan Canyon (more than 4 miles in length).  This property is used as a corridor for two transmission pipelines that provide Los Angeles residents with a safe and reliable supply of natural gas.  Periodically, SoCalGas must perform maintenance on these pipelines. The purpose of this letter is to provide information on pipeline maintenance and repair work that will occur in the coming weeks.

SoCalGas will conduct a hydrostatic pressure test on a segment of one of our natural gas transmission pipelines in Sullivan Canyon.  Hydrostatic pressure testing is a process that uses water to exert pressure on a pipeline at levels greater than its usual operating pressure to assess its soundness, often referred to as its integrity.

This test involves digging around the underground pipeline and safely venting natural gas from the pipeline. We will then fill the pipeline with water, and increase the pressure to a level that is higher than the pipeline’s normal operating pressure.  If the pipe holds the pressure without any leaks, it will be put back in service. If the pipeline leaks during the test, SoCalGas will repair the pipeline and retest it, or replace it with new, pre-tested pipeline.

What to expect

The construction work will take place at several locations starting west of the Sullivan Canyon trailhead at the end of Queensferry Road and about a quarter-mile northwest of the trailhead.  Work will begin in June 2014, and last about four to six weeks, although weather and other factors affecting safe working conditions could change the schedule. Normal work days will be Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., however, some activities may extend the hours.

Test Start Location:

At Sullivan Canyon Trailhead at Queensferry Road, a test-start location will be staged just west of the trail with an excavation site, water tanks, and other equipment. This area will be closed to the public.

Test End Location:

About a quarter-mile northwest of the trailhead, a test-end location with excavation site and support equipment will be staged alongside the trail.  This area will also be closed to the public.

Hikers, bikers, and others traversing the trail should use caution while passing by both test site locations. For safety reasons, Sullivan Canyon Trail will not be accessible by the public on the actual test day for the duration of the test. Check local signage with updates on construction activity.

The local community may notice truck traffic bringing test equipment and water tanks to the test sites and then removing them. Nearby residents may hear some work-related noise.

Your gas service should continue without interruption. If that changes, a SoCalGas representative will contact you.

The odor of natural gas

At times, you may smell the odor of natural gas and hear a loud, steady noise as we vent natural gas from the pipeline using safe and common techniques. Although this is normal when crews are working, we encourage anyone who has concerns about the smell of gas to call us from a safe location at 1-800-427-2200. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We apologize for any inconvenience while we’re performing this test and appreciate your patience and cooperation.

Mike Harriel

Public Affairs Manager – Southern California Gas Company

Tel: (213) 244-4633 

Sullivan Canyon Officially Re-opens

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

image001By Mike Harriel, Southern California Gas Company

So Cal Gas has completed mandated maintenance work on the pipelines in Sullivan Canyon. The canyon is now open for use.

As I have mentioned before. There is another maintenance project occurring in the canyon in early May 2014. I will inform you about the impact to the canyon as well as timeline once I have all the information.

Please be aware; at the end of the Sullivan Fire Road north of Mulholland Drive, Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas®) will soon be working in the area to perform a pressure test on one of our natural gas pipelines. You will see SoCalGas and its Contractor’s trucks, water tanks, and heavy equipment.

I know a lot of you use this road for hiking and biking. My understanding is the road will not be completely blocked so you will be able to pass through. Work will begin late March 2014, and last until approximately early in May 2014, although weather and other factors affecting safe working conditions could change the schedule.

Thank you for your patience regarding Sullivan Canyon closures. Please understand Sullivan Canyon is private property, owned solely by the southern California gas company. Its primary function is a corridor for two high pressure gas lines. Because of its natural beauty, we make it available for public use. Periodically, we must complete state and federally mandated maintenance on this pipeline to insure its integrity and public safety. This maintenance may require partial or complete shutdown of the canyon, depending on the nature of the work. We try to keep the public informed of this work, scheduling and user impact.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Happy hiking and biking!

 

LA County: Santa Susana Mountains Trails Master Plan Update

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Santa Susana Mountains Trail Master Plan Meeting

Kathline King introduces the SSMTMP

At last weeks second public meeting on the Santa Susana Mountains Trails Master Plan, the County presented a comprehensive map showing their planned trails, the existing trails, and the relevant delineations of private, public and utility lands. While public comments were made, they weren’t being recorded.

CORBA would like to express our sincere thanks and gratitude to L.A. County Parks and Recreation Planning Division staff for moving this trail plan forward, and to Supervisor Antonovich for his support of the process. CORBA whole-heartedly supports project, the process, and the deliverables (maps) presented at the meeting last week.

In looking at the final draft map, we were pleased to see that the agency had listened to the prior comments asking to expand the study area so that true connectivity between disparate open spaces and existing trails could be explored more thoroughly and with a more regional view.

From our cursory review of the maps presented at the meeting, we can say that the work that has gone into this planning effort has been very much worthwhile. We feel the document is a great step towards achieving the stated goals of identifying missing links, providing connectivity between existing trails, open spaces and jurisdictions, and recognizing the value of some of the existing non-system trails. We feel the eventual implementation of the plan will increase both the quality, quantity, and variety of recreational experiences the community so badly needs.

We are also sensitive to the concerns of private property owners who expressed feelings that they hadn’t been heard. However, we also feel that many of their concerns arose from an incomplete understanding of the goals of this planning process. In some cases, it seemed their negative experiences with other neighboring public land managers have elevated their concerns about dealing with the County. We hope that as the plan is implemented and negotiations take place with private land owners (and the neighboring public land managers), their fears can be allayed and mutually beneficial compromises reached for the benefit of the entire trail user community and the public-at-large.

The County’s policy favoring shared-use trails including bicycles is very important to us as a trail advocacy group comprised of bicyclists. We know that there are several places where proposed County trails will connect to trails in City of Los Angeles parks such as O’Melveny and Limekiln Canyon. On these City trails bicycles are presently prohibited. It is our hope that the County and City can come to a compromise that would allow bicycles to connect legally to the proposed County trails/trailheads that are only accessible through City property and trails.

Since this Trail Master Plan will be incorporated into the County General Plan, we feel it would also be worth coordinating proposed trailheads with the 2012 L.A. County Bicycle Master Plan. Having trailheads accessible by bicycle-friendly infrastructure such as Class II Bike lanes is good for encouragement, makes them more accessible to non-drivers, and helps reduce vehicular traffic to trailheads.

CORBA is at present in full support of the plan. It will be presented to the County Rec and Parks Commission later in the year, and subsequently to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for adoption.

Update March 16, 2014: The plan will be presented to the Planning Commission on March 26, 2014. Meeting starts at 9 am at the Hall of Records Room 150, 320 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles, California 90012. The Parks and Recreation element is agenda item #6.i.

The Trail Master Plan map and powerpoint presentation are available on the County’s web site.

Update, March 26, 2014: The LA County Regional Planning Commission held their hearing on the draft plan today. Steve Messer, Jim Hasenauer, Ken Raleigh and Tony Arnold all testified in support of the plan. One private landowner, and five equestrian representatives also testified in support of the plan, all of them mentioning multi-use trails. Nobody spoke against the plan. Other elements of the County General Plan were also presented to the Commission, who held the matter over until their next meeting in April. We are confident the Planning Commission will approve the plan, which will then go before the Board Of Supervisors later in the year.