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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!