As we reported last year, a new Topanga General Plan is being developed by California State Parks. The plan will guide Topanga State Park’s future, ensuring that management practices are in line with the mission and objectives of the Park.
The general plan does not govern trail use designations, and instead defers to the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Master Plan, which is still in development.
The current draft of the plan was released in December. The public comment period ends today, January 23, 2012. Below are the comments that CORBA is submitting. Members of the public are also welcome to comment on the plan, which can be found at http://parks.ca.gov/?page_id=25956.
February 23, 2012
Luke Serna, Environmental Coordinator
Topanga General Plan Team
California State Parks
Southern Service Center
8885 Rio San Diego Drive, Suite 270
San Diego, CA 92108
Re.: Topanga State Park General Plan
Dear Mr. Serna,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Topanga State Park General Plan. We have been involved in the process from the first public hearings, and are happy to see the plan approach its final iterations. We congratulate you and the staff for moving the plan forward. However, as CORBA represents off-road cyclists, there are a few items and omissions in the current draft about which we have some concerns.
1. We read on page 49 “Eight additional focus group meetings were held to better understand a few site specific issues.” Then number 5 on page 50 mentions a focus group on user conflicts. CORBA as an organization representing off-road cyclists was not made aware of, and did not attend any such focus group. Nor did any of our members or anyone we can find in the bicycling community. There aren’t any details of who called the group or how that group’s findings may have affected the final plan. Without cyclists present, we are concerned that an unbalanced representation of user conflicts may have been made. Exclusion of one user group from such a focus group cannot possibly foster multi-use principles, just as excluding a user group from a trail furthers and deepens user conflicts when they do occur. Please document and clarify the process used to form this focus group and its findings as they pertain to the general plan. This would perhaps be suitable for inclusion as an appendix.
2. On page 65, it states “1. a. This management plan will address the ability of bikes, horses and other pack animals, and fire, construction and Park vehicles to carry and spread exotic plant seed throughout the Park.” There is no mention of hiking boots, running shoes, shoe tread, socks or clothes as a vector for the spread of exotic seed. This should also be of concern and should be addressed, especially since hikers are much more likely than cyclists to go off-trail where they can be exposed to more seed than would otherwise be encountered by those staying on the trail. We feel this is an omission.
3. Page 53 states that “trail-use designations are not part of this plan…. However, trail corridors, as well as trail goals and guidelines, will be established as a part of this process.” While these “trail corridors” appear in the legend of the map on page 105, the scale of the map and the visual indicators used in the legend do not allow for the easy identification of or distinction between “corridors” and existing trails. A verbal description of each trail corridor proposed and/or a larger scale map would do much to alleviate and prevent any confusion. We feel we cannot adequately comment on the proposed trail corridors without fully understanding them.
4. In Table 3, “Planning Matrix” on page 113, the Lagoon, Watershed Zone and Lower Topanga zones are listed as being restricted to “hiking on designated trails only.” To list an entire zone off-limits to other user groups will hamper the efforts to complete the Coastal Slope trail as it is envisioned–a multi-use long distance trail–that will pass through that zone. The Coastal Slope trail itself appears on the Lower Topanga/Lagoon Preferred Plan “Range of possible features” on page 115. Making trail use decisions on a trail-by-trail basis, rather than a blanket closure of an entire area, will allow for better management of users in the area, and reduce impediments to the planned Coastal Slope Trail.
5. According to the plan Musch Campground is open to bicycles. However, the Musch Trail is currently closed to bicycle use. A formal change-in-use request has been submitted to convert that trail to multi-use including bicycles. How is Musch Campground currently accessed by bicycles?
Off-road cycling is a healthy outdoor recreational activity that entices people away from their couches and computers and into our treasured open spaces. Cyclists comprise a large portion of State Park visitors, yet only fire roads and Rogers Road are currently open to bikes in Topanga SP, concentrating bicycles on fewer trails, and placing them on wide fire roads that encourage high rates of downhill speed. This contributes to user conflicts and creates further divisiveness between user groups. We would like to see the General Plan recognize cycling as a legitimate, welcomed and, when managed appropriately, sustainable activity in Topanga State Park.
CORBA has a long history with State Parks in the Santa Monica Mountains. Our trail crew volunteers have worked on Rogers Road and many other trails in neighboring State Park units for many years. We note in the plan that there is a recommendation to continue to work with volunteer and non-profit groups. We work side-by-side with other user groups at State Trails Day and other events. CORBA works constantly to educate, inform and encourage off-road cyclists to practice good trail etiquette, and the vast majority do. We look forward to continuing and furthering our relationship with Topanga State Park and other SP units in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association