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Schwarzenegger proposal to help narrow Calif.’s huge deficit would close 220 state parks

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

By SAMANTHA YOUNG , Associated Press (reported in the Minneapolis – St. Paul Star Tribune)

Local parks slated for closure include

The California State Parks Foundation has compiled a complete list of parks proposed to be closed.

What you can do to help prevent closure of our parks

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget cuts could mean the closing of up to 220 state parks, among them the home of the world’s tallest tree and other attractions that draw millions of visitors. Schwarzenegger this week recommended eliminating $70 million in parks spending through June 30, 2010. An additional $143.4 million would be saved in the following fiscal year by keeping the parks closed.

“This is a worst-case scenario,” said Roy Sterns, a spokesman at the state parks department. “If we can do less than this, we will try. But under the present proposal, this is it.”

Among the parks that could be closed, the parks department said Thursday, are Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay, Will Rogers’ Southern California ranch and Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which boasts the world’s tallest tree, a giant that tops 370 feet. Even the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento is on the list.

The Legislature last year rejected the governor’s proposal to close 48 state parks. But lawmakers said that with California’s budget deficit now at $24.3 billion, the situation is so dire that it is likely some parks will close.

“Things that were previously dead on arrival are a lot more viable in a crisis like this,” said Democrat Jared Huffman, chairman of the Assembly’s parks and wildlife committee. “I think some cuts are coming to the parks, and they’ll be cuts I won’t like and the public won’t like.”

The state parks department said a $70 million cut would leave it with enough money to run just 59 of California’s 279 state parks.

The state’s famed park system attracts nearly 80 million visitors a year. William Randolph Hearst’s Castle on the Central Coast and a dozen other so-called moneymakers would remain open, as would many Southern California beaches that attract millions of visitors year round.

But others that could close include: Fort Ross State Historic Park, the southernmost Russian settlement in North America; Bodie State Historic Park, one of the best-preserved Old West ghost towns; and Big Basin Redwoods, the oldest state park.

The proposal has angered conservationists and some Democrats in the Legislature, who say California’s parks are treasured spots that help the state and local economy.

“State parks draw tourism to California,” State Parks Foundation president Elizabeth Goldstein said. “This proposal makes the budget situation worse.”

The foundation estimates the state gets a $2.35 return for every dollar it spends on parks.

California spends roughly $400 million a year running 279 state parks and beaches, with roughly a third of the money coming from the state general fund. The rest comes from user fees, which account for slightly more than a quarter of the revenue; bond funds; gasoline taxes; federal money; and other sources.

Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines said the state cannot afford to subsidize state parks when lawmakers are being asked to make severe cuts in even more vital areas.

“Parks are just not going to be a priority over public safety and education, as much as we hate to see them close,” Villines said.

At least 2,000 park rangers, biologists, lifeguards, interpreters, architects and maintenance workers would be laid off if the proposal is adopted, said Sterns, the parks spokesman.

The layoffs would be in addition to 5,000 state positions the governor has already recommended cutting.

“When you cut that much, you have to let go highly trained teams of biologists that you can’t get back in a year or two,” Huffman said. “It’s a myth to think you can mothball the entire system. These cuts will cripple the park system for a decade or more.”

High School Cycling Gives Thanks

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

November 25, 2009

BERKELEY, Calif. The NorCal and SoCal High School Cycling Leagues combined raised over $100,000 at their annual CycleFest fundraisers. The SoCal League almost doubled its attendance over 2008.

Matt Fritzinger, founder of the NorCal League, said “We are very thankful for having had two highly successful CycleFest events this year. The funds raised will help these leagues keep pace with the enormous growth that is expected for the 2010 season.”

The NorCal CycleFest, which featured Jonathan Vaughters of the Garmin Cycling Team, was generously supported by a long list of silent auction donors and sponsors. Heading this list are Specialized Bicycle Components, Fox Racing Shox, GU Sports, Ritchey Logic, NCNCA, Mountain Hardwear, Syncros, Mike’s Bikes, Clif Bar, Marin Cyclists, and McGuire Real Estate. The weekend’s festivities, comprising a cocktail reception, gala dinner, and 50-mile CHP-supported ride, raised a total of more than $60,000 and were attended by 400 people.

The SoCal Interscholastic Cycling League enjoyed a massive boost in attendance over its first-year fundraiser in 2008. Bob Roll entertained 150 diners aboard the Queen Mary luxury ocean liner, moored at Long Beach. Many companies contributed to the dinner and silent auction, including Kaiser Federal Bank, Team Sho-Air, Specialized Bicycle Components, SoCal Endurance, Turner Bikes, Stan’s Monrovia Cyclery, Mellow Johnny’s, PAA Cycling Club, and Team Kareen. A total of $40,000 was raised.

SoCal Director Matt Gunnell said, “I am inspired that in these difficult times so many people came out to support the growth and sustainability of the SoCal League. We had 85 people at our inaugural event in 2008 and 150 in 2009. With this type of support I see a strong future for the League.”

The emerging Colorado High School Cycling League will have its inaugural CycleFest dinner in Denver, on April 24th, 2010.

Contact: Matt Gunnell, matt@socaldirt.org

SoCal Interscholastic Cycling League Launched with Backing from Easton Sports Development Foundation II

Friday, August 29th, 2008

August 29, 2008

OAKLAND , CA – The Northern California High School Mountain Bike Racing League (NorCal League) will launch the Southern California Interscholastic Cycling League (SoCal League) in the 2009 academic year with grant support from the Easton Sports Development Foundation II.

The new league is based on the successful model of the NorCal League, now in its eighth year, which currently has reached a membership of over 400 high schoolers, 150 coaches, and 35 schools from within the region. Matt Fritzinger, Executive Director of both the NorCal and SoCal leagues, said, “We are tremendously grateful for the generosity of Mr. Easton and his foundation. The grant allows us to launch a new league, and that has been a dream of ours for several years. With the SoCal League, we’ll be fostering the same values of life-long physical fitness, community, and self-confidence combined with athletic competition that has been so successful in Northern California.”

The NorCal League has developed methods and curriculum for introducing young riders to the world of mountain bike racing, as well as recruiting and training coaches that are committed to producing amateur athletes who are gracious in both victory and defeat, and are respectful of their environment and community. The SoCal League is one of the first few recipients of an ESDF II grant in part because of the proposal’s emphasis on coaching, community, and making cycling a main-stream high school sport. Fritzinger said, “We know that good coaching means working closely with families, and helping athletes create a balanced life perspective. We aim to take the SoCal high school mountain bike teams in the same direction as we have in Northern California working to make cycling as important as baseball, football and soccer in the fabric of our high schools.”

For information about the SoCal League visit www.socaldirt.org and visit their booth at CORBA’s Fat Tire Fest on October 12, 2008. Also, visit CORBA’s SoCal League web page.

Urge California Decision Makers to Adopt Bike-Friendly Land Protection Measures

Friday, June 27th, 2008

June 27, 2008

From the International Mountain Bicycling Association

The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources recently passed a bill — authored by Assembly member Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus — that directs the state to assess the suitability of numerous state lands in Northern California for Wilderness designations.

Bicyclists value natural landscapes and access to trails that bring us closer to nature. Because our activity is a quiet, low-impact and human-powered use that is compatible with wild settings, we believe many of these Northern California areas should not be protected with Wilderness designations, which would effectively prohibit bike access.

IMBA California Policy Advisor Tom Ward has testified in front of the committee and many members expressed their support for mountain biking — but they still passed the bill out of committee. Unless they hear from the mountain bike community, the bill will keep moving and suggest massive closures at three important parks.

There are many ways to protect these important places without banning the existing use of mountain bicycling. Cyclists need to rally and make sure their assembly member hears from our constituency.

Take Action!

IMBA’s simple online comment form takes seconds to complete! Tell the governor and your state senator and representative you support land protection that allows bicycling to continue.

A quick phone call can be even more effective. Click here to find contact information for your elected officials.

Please also forward this alert to all mountain bikers, bike shops and industry employees you know.

Additional Information

Assembly Bill (AB) 2923 passed from committee with a 6-2 vote and awaits further review in the Assembly Appropriations Committee

Sponsored by the California Wilderness Coalition, the bill directs the Resources Agency and the State Lands Commission to assess whether selected state lands merit wilderness designation.

Mountain biking is an existing use in several of these areas, including Robert Louis Stevenson State Park and Henry W. Coe State Park.

Mountain bikers also have a long-standing proposal to create shared-use trails in Austin Creek Redwoods State Park.

Because Wilderness designations would prohibit bike access in these parks, we urge that these areas should be protected through other means.

IMBA California’s Tom Ward is meeting with key Senate staffers and will keep the pressure up to ensure that mountain bike access is protected.

Bicyclist in trouble again over illegal trail at China Camp

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

May 1, 2008

by Gary Klien, Marin Independent Journal

A San Rafael man who built an illegal bike trial on federal land in 2001 is in legal trouble again – this time for carving a trail in China Camp State Park, authorities said.Michael Philip More, 54, was charged Thursday in Marin Superior Court with willful or negligent destruction or removal of plants and dead wood, diverting or obstructing the natural flow of a stream, resisting a peace officer and allowing a dog to roam off-leash in a restricted area, prosecutors said.

More is accused of digging an illegal bike trail into a hillside, hacking down tree limbs and constructing rock paths through two drainage ditches, authorities said. The quarter-mile trail is at the end of Robinhood Drive in San Rafael’s Glenwood neighborhood, which borders the state park.

The cost of repairing the damage is estimated at $20,000, said Kathryn Mitchell, a senior county prosecutor.

Dave Gould, the superintendent overseeing state parks in Marin, said the damage to the natural resources was “significant.”

“It looks like chainsaws were used and trail-building tools to carve out the hillside,” he said. “This isn’t where 15 people walked up and down the hillside and you can see their path – this is an attempt to construct an illegal trail.”

More, who could not be reached for comment, has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Patrick Ciocca, said More would be “loathe to engage in a public discussion” about the allegations while preparing his defense.

“It would not be beneficial for him to enter into a public dialogue,” Ciocca said.

Park rangers received a tip about the trail in March, when a resident noticed unusual activity in the area. A ranger investigating the trail found More at the scene, and More allegedly tried to flee.

More was cited, but not arrested, while prosecutors reviewed the case. He is scheduled to be appear in court on May 9.

Alex Burnham, president of the San Rafael-based Access4Bikes advocacy group, said he is concerned that the case will tarnish the entire bicycling community and inflame tensions between cyclists and noncyclists. The issue of trail use has fueled years of acidic conflict among hikers, bikers, equestrians and dog owners, with the county sometimes resorting to barbed wire to block cyclists from trails.

“We do not condone this behavior,” Burnham said. “We advocate for legal trails. In Marin County, the trail user community is so polarized that anything that occurs is a blight that gets thrown on the community of mountain bikers.”

More was once a prominent bicycling activist, serving on the Marin County Open Space District Trails Committee. But he resigned the position in 2001 when federal authorities accused him and two other men of carving a four-mile illegal bike trail into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area near Bolinas Ridge.

All three men were indicted by a federal grand jury and eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanors. They were ordered to pay more than $34,000 in restitution for the destruction to federal property, placed on probation for three years and banned from the federal park system during probation.

They apologized in court.

Economics and Benefits of Mountain Biking

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

March 5, 2008
(updated March 14, 2008)

IRVINE, Calif. — Enjoying the outdoors is as natural as riding a bike and Shimano American Corporation and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) have teamed up to promote how important the activity is. Shimano is a major manufacturer of bicycle components and IMBA is a national advocate for responsible riding and trail construction. Together they are releasing the new document, The Economics and Benefits of Mountain Biking at the National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. March 4 – 6, 2008.

More than 1 in 5 Americans age 16 and over ride a mountain bike, and contribute $26 billion annually to the American economy while enjoying the sport. Kozo Shimano said, “We want legislators, policy makers and the public to understand how significant mountain biking is to both the economy and to keeping people healthy.” One recent cost benefit analysis concluded that every dollar invested in trails led to almost three dollars in direct medical benefit. The World Health Organization recommends riding a bike to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Mountain bikers are also dedicated conservationists who volunteer their time, labor and money to protect the natural and cultural resources where they ride. IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Abel commented, “From the beginning, IMBA members have embraced a stewardship ethic that benefits conservation of our natural lands and waters. This timely publication shows how that conservation mindset also gives back with economic benefits.”

Scientific research has shown mountain biking to be a low impact environmentally sustainable activity with no more impact on natural resources than hiking, and far less than many other recreational activities.

Kozo Shimano added, “To put the activity in perspective, 50 million Americans ride a mountain bike – more than 1 ½ times the number of people who play golf. “

Copies of The Economics and Benefits of Mountain Biking can be obtained from IMBA by sending a request to info@imba.com.

March 14, 2008: You can view the report by clicking this link: The Economics and Benefits of Mountain Biking

 

Mountain Bikers Retain Trail Access in Southern California Forests

Monday, April 30th, 2007

April 30, 2007

The most extensive formal appeal in IMBA’s 19-year history has culminated in an agreement that will maintain widespread bicycle access in four National Forest units in Southern California. With hundreds of trail miles at stake in the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino forests, bike advocates embarked on a lengthy appeals process to a Forest Service decision to close dozens of trails to bikes.

The decision was the culmination of five years of mountain biker participation in the Forest Service planning process. “Even when the documents and alternatives didn’t favor us, the Forest Service staff welcomed our participation and encouraged us to keep working toward a solution,” says IMBA Rep Jim Hasenauer, who began working on the issue in 2001 when the four forests first announced a joint planning process for trail management.

According to IMBA California Policy Advisor Tom Ward, strong partnerships with state and federal agencies hold the key to bike access throughout the state. “IMBA’s approach to mountain bike advocacy is to build strong relationships with land managers throughout California. We promote quality riding opportunities and work hard to create fun, environmentally sustainable trails that all users can enjoy,” says Ward.

IMBA Filed Extensive Appeal

In 2004, after three years of preliminary work, the four Southern California forest units jointly released alternative plans for forest and trail management. IMBA’s action alert generated hundreds of messages and letters urging that trails be kept open to bikes. “Although there was much that we liked in the original plan, we had concerns about some of the proposed Wilderness areas, the treatment of bicycles in ‘critical biological zones,’ and the ambiguity of language regarding bicycle use only on formally designated ‘system’ trails,” says Hasenauer.

In 2005, the forests issued a revised plan that addressed most of IMBA’s initial concerns. New Wilderness additions would have little effect on mountain bike opportunities, bikes would be allowed on trails in the “critical biological zones” unless specifically prohibited, and the Forests promised to deal with the “unofficial” trails issue with public participation, over time.

In Oct. of 2006, the San Bernardino National Forest indicated its intention to close all “non-system trails” to bicycles. “We felt that was inconsistent with the 2005 plan,” says Hasenauer. The Forest disagreed, but met with local bicyclists to inventory and keep some of those trails open. The local mountain biking community stepped up to help the Forest identify important trails for mountain bikes and the Forest agreed to delay the closure.

At the same time, Hasenauer worked with fellow IMBA Rep Daniel Greenstadt, IMBA’s Gary Sprung (then Senior Policy Adviser, now an independent contractor) and Washington-based policy advisor Kirk Bailey to develop an official appeal. “The appeal was the most extensive public participation document that IMBA has ever developed,” says Hasenauer. “Most appeals are quickly disqualified, but ours went forward.”

Meetings Lead to Withdrawal of Appeal

In Nov. 2006, Hasenauer met with the Southern California Forest Supervisors and staff. “We agreed that the three other forests had a more reasonable approach and we’re in fact, a more reasonable interpretation of the new plans,” says Hasenauer. “We agreed that there would need to be a process and a Forest Order before trails were closed. Bicyclists could continue to ride such trails unless specifically prohibited. They also indicated that generally if non-classified trails were to be closed, they should be closed to all users.” That understanding resulted in the December 2006 withdrawal of IMBA’s appeal.

“This is a great example of how steadfast advocacy inside public participation processes can save trails. IMBA is quite satisfied with the resolution and we look forward to working with the Forest Service on trail management issues again,” says IMBA Government Affairs Director Jenn Dice.

For more information, Contact: Mark Eller, Communications Director, markeller@imba.com, 303-545-9011

President’s Message: Changes are Coming

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Changes are coming. We just need to figure out what is in the best interest of you as mountain bikers, for our members, for CORBA, and finally for IMBA.

Since the abrupt loss of Suburu as a sponsor of several of its core programs last year, IMBA, our parent (and child!) organization, has had to undergo some major cutbacks. The Trail Care Crew and other programs are on indefinite hold. Staff layoffs and the resignation of Executive Director Mike Van Abel set IMBA on a much-needed transformation.

The IMBA Chapter program, which CORBA joined in 2011, was a key factor in IMBA’s recent growth. Much of the funding for the Chapter program came from Suburu, including travel expenses incurred by the Regional Director. One of the main functions of the RD was to liaise with and help coordinate all the chapters in a territory. In our case, the region is California and Hawaii.

In return, IMBA receives 60% of your membership dues and CORBA receives 40%. The basic membership is $35, with options at $50, $100 and higher that include swag. IMBA handles everything regarding membership management. The time and energy we would otherwise spend on membership management we can devote to advocacy and trailwork.  IMBA has supported us in Washington DC while we worked locally with members of Congress to prevent trail closures due to wilderness legislation. We’ve had access to IMBA expertise including the Trail Care Crew and Trail Solutions crew.  We also increased our membership numbers by about 40% when we became a chapter.

Recent IMBA messaging, however, has not been taken well by a portion of our members. Some have quit their membership and chosen to donate money directly to CORBA (which we welcome, regardless of membership).

IMBA recently chose Chairman of the Board Dave Weins as its new Executive Director. He’s widely respected and well-known. He ran a chapter himself. The ED is at the service of the IMBA Board of Directors, so we don’t expect any immediate changes in IMBA policy or messaging.

Overall, we’ve had a productive, fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship with IMBA. However, it’s been quite expensive at 60% of membership dues and is unsustainable without Suburu’s sponsorship.

Proposed changes to the program to make it sustainable are to increase the base membership price to about $50. About 40% of our members are now at the $35 level. Understanding people’s financial constraints, we expect to lose some members if the membership price is raised.

In the 1990s IMBA’s mantra was to give 20-20-20. $20 for IMBA, $20 for your local organization, and twenty hours of volunteer trailwork. Considering inflation, that’s not much different to the proposed changes: local and national advocacy group memberships for $50.

Hopefully most of you see the immense value in our programs: keeping trails open, restoring trails after disasters, advocating for mountain bikers to land managers and organizations around Southern California. We have bike parks completed and operating, and are working to bring more to the area. Without CORBA’s 30 years of advocacy, your local riding options might be much more limited.

Other proposed changes include the development of a Regional Leadership Council in which all SoCal chapters could meet among ourselves and coordinate efforts. We’d also get a new nationwide insurance plan which is hopefully less expensive than our current policies. We’d have access to experts in various fields by email or voice. It’s a streamlined and more efficient program. The question is whether it’s worth the 60% share of membership dues IMBA takes.

San Diego Mountain Bike Association and others in California are considering whether to stay in IMBA’s chapter program or go it alone. CORBA must make also this decision in the near future. There is much value to CORBA’s relationship with IMBA, but there’s also great value in a California-focused organization as proposed by San Diego Mountain Bike Association. At more than double CORBA’s membership, SDMBA could easily thrive as an IMBA Associate Club, rather than a chapter.

The departure of any chapter would reduce the number of IMBA members nationwide. A departing chapter might lose some members too. Some members may subsequently choose to join both the local organization and IMBA at the national level, as things were before the chapter program. It’s doubtful all current members would join both under those circumstances.

However, significantly weakening IMBA will ultimately hurt us all. IMBA remains dedicated to improving mountain biking for everyone. STC, which most of our members also support, has a much more narrowly focused mission that affects California more than most other states. IMBA’s efforts are having a positive impact nationally and local, but the local impacts are more difficult to quantify. The soon-to-be-released “Guidelines for a Quality Trail Experience” developed in partnership with the BLM, is a great example. Aimed squarely at Land Managers, this extensive new reference will be key to helping land managers understand our needs and desires. It will help guide the development of more bike-specific trails to meet a growing need. We can’t wait to supply a copy to our local Land Managers as we advocate for quality trail experiences locally. Resources like this help us all.

IMBA has taken feedback from its chapters on the proposed chapter program changes through a series of conference calls and surveys. They’re tweaking it based on the feedback and we’re waiting for the final version. When that comes, we’ll have a decision to make. But we’re interested in hearing from our members, and from those who aren’t members. (Why not?)

Most of you already join at the $50 level and higher (and we appreciate your support!). How many who now pay $35 can’t or won’t want to join us for $50?

How many of you feel strongly either way about our association with IMBA?  Would you join both organizations separately if we parted ways, or just one or the other?

We may send out a survey in the near future asking these and other questions, but feel free to email or comment to share your views.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual for CORBA. We’re busy with trailwork, advocacy, bike parks, fundraising, education and mountain bike advocacy. We’re improving relationships with Land Managers and looking for new opportunities. We’re in it for the long run and need your continued support.

2016: A Busy, Productive Year

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

2016 is behind us, and what a year it was for CORBA and mountain bikers! We were extremely busy last year, cutting trails, cutting trees, and working on behalf of the mountain bike community to ensure continued and improved access to mountain biking in the greater Los Angeles and Eastern Ventura County areas.

Jim Burton cuts the ceremonial ribbon, as Steve Messer, Matt Lay and Jenny Johnson of MWBA, and Ken's daughters Heather and Tania look on.

Opening of Ken Burton Trail

In 2016, the Gabrielino Trail Restoration project, with REI, Bellfree Contractors, and Los Angeles Conservation Corps, was completed.  Ken Burton Trail restoration with MWBA was completed, opening the Ken Burton trail and a popular loop after seven years of closure, thousands of volunteer hours, and nearly three years of planning.

(more…)

California Trails and Greenways Conference 2016

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
The Historic Mission Inn, Riverside, was the official conference hotel.

The Historic Mission Inn, Riverside, was the official conference hotel.

The 2016 California Trails and Greenways conference was held in historic downtown Riverside from April 7 – 10, 2016. The conference theme was “loving our trails to death,” something many long-time trail users are realizing is becoming the norm, not the exception. This is especially true on our crowded and increasingly popular trails in the Greater Los Angeles Area.

Equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers talk trail etiquette

Equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers talk trail etiquette

Steve Messer, CORBA’s President, was on hand. Laurel Harkness, IMBA’s California Regional Director, had a booth and gave a presentation on “providing great, sustainable trail experiences. IMBA chapters from Orange County, San Diego County, Folsom, and the Central Coast were also represented. We took the opportunity to get the IMBA chapters together for an update on issues, strategies, and directions for each of the chapters.

The conference is also a great way to network with land managers, decision makers, trail professionals, and other user group advocates. In the six years that I’ve been attending these conferences, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Mountain Bikers are, more and more, being considered a legitimate and valuable contributors to the trail user community. With more IMBA chapters attending, and many presentations by mountain bikers and mountain-bike-friendly land managers and professionals, its obvious we are here to stay.

CORBA Founder Kurt Loheit introduces the dignitaries from the Santa Monica Mountains NRA

CORBA Founder Kurt Loheit introduces the dignitaries from the Santa Monica Mountains NRA

As a great example of the improving relations with the trail community, Steve Messer teamed up with the California State Horsemen’s Association, Trails4All, Riverside County Backcountry Horsemen and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council to give a presentation on trail etiquette best practices. The presentation was well-received, but it was apparent we were “preaching to the choir.” The last slide of the presentation actually thanked the choir for listening to us preach!  During the presentation, Dale Skinner, State Park Trails Manager for the Angeles District (Santa Monica Mountains), gave Steve and CORBA kudos for our approach to providing solutions and being exemplary stewards of our trails.

David Szymanski, Joe Edmiston and Craig Sap talk about completing the Backbone Trail

David Szymanski, Joe Edmiston and Craig Sap talk about completing the Backbone Trail

Another important presentation was Thursday’s lunch time plenary by Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area superintendent David Szymanski, State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap, and Santa Monica Mountains Conservency executive director Joe Edmiston. They discussed the current status of the Backbone Trail, and the 65 years it has taken to bring a 65 mile trail from concept to completion. Currently there are two incomplete segments. One is the bypass around the gates at the west end of Etz Meloy motorway. The NPS has begun construction on a re-route that will bypass the closed gates. It’s constrained by a narrow easement from the private property owners, forcing a less-than-ideal alignment, but it will be much better than a closed segment of trail and no alternative. The other outstanding issue is a private parcel owned by former governer Arnold Schwarzenneger, west of Kanan. The NPS is hoping to secure a trail easement from Schwarzenneger and his partners soon.

During the talk Craig Sap gave a noteworthy shoutout to CORBA and to the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council for our contributions to keeping the trails in good shape, and making up for some of the agency’s deficiencies with their reduced budgets.

They hope to open the complete Backbone trail on June 4th, as part of National Trails Day. They also plan to submit the trail for inclusion in the National Recreation Trail system. We believe the trail is worthy of such recognition.

Other notable presentations were from Rick Gunn who rode a bike around the world. Not only was he an amazing storyteller, he had an amazing story to tell. As a former journalist and photographer, his photography and the range of emotional lows and highs he experienced over two years had all the conference attendees in silence, awe, and at times, even in tears.

Aside from the State Parks employee training, for which they get continuing education credit, the sessions covered a range of topics, from sustainable trail building, trail surveying, working with public-private partnerships, and a number of project-specific presentations.

Project specific presentations were given on the current status of the Castaic Trail Master Plan, the LA River Trail (bike path), and a number of other project-related presentations. There were presentation by the Backcountry Horsemen on how they can assist in trail maintenance by packing in tools and supplies.

Ride, Hike, and Bike event on Santa Ana River Trail

Ride, Hike, and Bike event on Santa Ana River Trail

After the conference sessions were completed, a group headed out for the traditional multi-use ride/hike/bike event. Local equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers converged on the Santa Ana River Trail to ride/hike together, as an expression of solidarity and multi-use cooperation.

Each year we look forward to participating in this increasingly useful and relevant conference. It covers issues unique to California, is attended by both land managers, conservancies, trail advocates and user groups. It brings everyone together, simply for a passion for trails. We are loking forward to next year, to be held in Monterey about the same time as Sea Otter.

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