Archive for the ‘Regions’ Category

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

July Skills Clinic photos posted Monday, July 7

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Guest photographer Graham Martin filled in for Steve again this month. The weather was very hot and there was a small but enthusiastic group at Malibu Creek State Park for the Skills Clinic this Fourth of July weekend. You can see the July photos in the July 2014 photo gallery.

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

June Skills Clinic photos posted Sunday, June 8

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Guest photographer Graham Martin filled in for Steve this month who was leading another event to commemorate National Trails Day. As always, there was a good group at Malibu Creek State Park for the Skills Clinic. The weather started out cloudy but cleared by the end of the class. You can see the June photos in the June 2014 photo gallery.

President’s Message: The Station Fire

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

20110401-Station_Fire_sign_burning_3It has been almost five years since the Station Fire was set by arsonists along Highway 2 near the base of Mount Lukens. I was there on August 26, 2009 when it started. I was also there last week when the Station Fire General Closure Order expired. This opened up Strawberry Peak loop, a trail system that has been the focus of several different groups for the past eighteen months. Though it’s a significant milestone, there is much more to be done.

Mountain Bike Magazine Station Fire

Mountain Bike Magazine Station Fire

This takes me back to a June 2010 Mountain Bike Magazine article about the Station Fire. While the magazine is no longer published, a copy of the story is archived on our web site. Reading it will help you realize what has been accomplished since.

We all wish that things could have happened faster, but the assumptions of the article have held up. Matt Lay/Mount Wilson Bicycling Association (MWBA), and I were featured in the article as mountain bikers on a mission to help restore the trails. Both CORBA and the MWBA have lived up to that promise, with many trails affected by the fire now open due (at least in part) to our efforts. We have to thank our volunteers, our members, and REI for their generous support, all of whom helped make it possible.

Of course, mountain bikers were not alone in the effort to restore trails. Many nonprofit groups, trail user groups, and individual volunteers continue to make significant contributions to restoration and maintenance. Professional crews including Bellfree Contractors and the LA Conservation Corps have also been involved.

As mentioned,  the work is not yet done. The general closure expired and was replaced by a much more manageable list of closed trails. Among them are several fire roads and at least two local mountain biking favorites: a section of the Gabrielino Trail and the Ken Burton Trail. CORBA and the MWBA have pending work plans for both trails, and the Forest Service is working to reopen the fire roads. Stay tuned.

And there will always be a need to do trail maintenance, above and beyond restoration efforts.

Trails don’t maintain themselves. Join us.

- Steve Messer

Photos from Danusia’s May 31 Memorial and Rides

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Photos from Jesse Ettinger and Wendy Engelberg have been assembled into a photo gallery. If you missed the event, you can see some of the happenings in the photo gallery.

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 

Station Fire Closure to Expire, Strawberry Peak Loop Opens

Friday, May 23rd, 2014
Station fire damage to Strawberry Peak trail

Station fire damage to Strawberry Peak trail

The Station Fire burned over 250 square miles of the Angeles National Forest in 2009. The most recent Station Fire Closure Order went into effect on May 25 last year, and is in effect until May 24, 2014.  The Forest Service will not be renewing the general closure order. Instead, some trails that have yet to be restored will remain closed, along with some higher elevation fireroads. This is both for public safety and additional resource protection and recovery.

The following trails will remain closed:

  • Strawberry Peak Trail 12W05.1 (From the junction with Colby Canyon trail north to Upper Big Tujunga)
  • Lower Gabrielino Trail 11W14 (between Bear Canyon trail junction and Paul Little Campground)
  • Ken Burton Trail 12W19 (the complete trail)
  • Millard Waterfall trail (a non-system user-created trail)
  • Barley Flats Trail
  • Santa Clara Divide Road 3N17 (between Alder Saddle westward to the intersection with the BPL road near North Fork Station)
  • Axial roads that connect to the closed portion of 3N17 will also remain closed:
    • 4N32 (BPL Road) between 3N17 and 4N33
    • 4N33 (Moody Truck Trail) between 3N17 and 4N32
    • 4N24 (Beartrap Truck Trail/SCE Service Road) between 3N17 and Aliso Canyon Road
    • 3N90 (Roundtop) between 3N17 and Roundtop Peak
    • 3N32 (Mendenhall Ridge Road) between 3N17 and Indian Ben Saddle

Additionally, the following campgrounds will remain closed:

  • Messenger Flats Campground
  • Lightning Point Campground
  • Big Buck Campground

Note that some media reports have indicated that the Colby trail would be closed, without specifying which segments. Rest assured that the segments of the Colby Canyon trail that comprise the classic “Strawberry Peak Loop” will be opened. The segment of Colby Canyon trail north from Josephine Ridge to Highway 2 is still in very poor condition and not recommended for bicycles, though it will be opened.

Strawberry Peak after restoration

Strawberry Peak after restoration

We must acknowledge once again the generous support we received from REI to help fund the professional services of Bellfree Contractors, tools and food for volunteers, that allowed us to complete the restoration of the Strawberry Peak Trail. The restoration effort included a re-route of a particularly troublesome section, which was planned out as a part of the IMBA Trail Care Crew visit in 2012. We coordinated our efforts with The National Forest Foundation, Los Angeles Conservation Corps, and the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter trail crew. And of course, our biggest thanks go to the many volunteers who came out to our trailwork days on Strawberry Peak. We’ll be doing more trailwork there as we continue to maintain the trail in the future.

The Gabrielino Trail will be our next focus, and stay tuned for important news regarding that effort. We must emphasize that the closed segment of the Gabrielino trail is not ready for public use. At least three groups of trail users who ignored the closure have had to be extracted by Search and Rescue. Please stay off the closed trails listed above for your own safety.