On February 28, 2011, about 50 people gathered in the beautiful Birch Room at Descanso Gardens in La Canada. We were there to review and comment upon the most recent draft of the Los Angeles County Trails Manual. But let’s back up a bit…
Last July, CORBA board members met with LA County Planning and Sapphos Environmental (the contractor developing the Trails Manual for the County), in a Mountain Biker only public forum. At that meeting only three CORBA board members attended, the County representatives, and nobody else. The Equestrian-only meeting had many more participants, as did the Hiker-only meeting. Since this document will not set any policy regarding trail designations, Sapphos deemed it more productive to hold separate meetings with each user group. Each group gave their input on what they’d like to see covered in the trails manual, and their special concerns.
At that time in July 2010 there was only one section of the trails manual available for review: the section concerning trail design standards. Most of the standards in that preliminary section were adapted from IMBA’s Trail Solutions book, and other reputable multi-use trail construction texts. It was to be a technical document on building and designing trails, with no influence on the contentious issues around trail user groups and trail designations.
The County’s stated policy and goal is to accommodate all user groups on all trails possible. It is a multi-use, bike-friendly policy that works. We were informed at that time that there would be another round of public hearings as the manual was developed, based on the input from user groups at these meetings. The Manual is being developed with a grant from Supervisor Antonovich’s 5th district, in which the vast majority of the County’s trails can be found. The County has never had any offical trail standards, and many of the older trails are not really sustainable by today’s standards. However, this document would NOT be applied retroactively to existing trails, but will serve as the reference for all new trails that come before the County. It is likely that many of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County will also adopt this manual for their own standards once it is ratified by the County Board of Supervisors.
Fast forward to the February 28, 2011 public hearing. Steve Messer, and CORBA member/local cycling promotor and activist Dorothy Wong attended the meeting, along with about 40 local equestrians and hikers. For a welcome change from other meetings in which CORBA has been involved, the biggest issues raised were not contentious user conflicts, but rather, design standards pertaining to potentially flawed trail designs and citations from outdated Equestrian studies and facility designs.