Rim of the Valley Study Comments

As we reported back in August, the National Park Service has been holding public hearings on the Rim of the Valley Special Resource Study.  The public meetings have provided an opportunity for many to voice their support and/or concerns for the concept study.  Until midnight tonight, you can email your comments to the National Park Service.

Rim of the Valley Study Area Map

Rim of the Valley Study Area

The Rim of the Valley is comprised of the open spaces that surround the San Fernando, La Crescenta, Santa Clarita, Simi and Conejo valleys. This area spans both Los Angeles and Ventury County, and a bevy of land managers from different agencies. CORBA fully supports the prospect of having these various land managers come together under the direction of the National Park Service, with the goal of permanently protecting this vital ecological and recreational resource.

CORBA, representing off-road cyclists throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and beyond since 1987, enthusiastically supports the preservation of all remaining undeveloped open spaces in the proposed Rim of the Valley Corridor. Many CORBA members and supporters have been backing this project for more than 20 years since they first learned of the concept directly from Marge Feinberg herself, and through her tireless efforts.

While CORBA fully supports the continuing acquisition and preservation of open space land in the public interest, we must urge that recreational opportunities, which were part of Marge Feinberg’s original enlightened vision, must also be protected. Marge Feinberg’s vision was a trail system that allows recreational non-motorized trail users to travel east to west from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Santa Susanna Mountains, and south to the Santa Monica Mountains. It was envisioned as a backbone, a continuous thread linking all these different habitats together.

Most of the existing sections of trail and undeveloped dirt roads within the Study Corridor are managed with multi-use principles. These allow hikers, equestrians and off-road cyclists to share the trails. We must urge that any new sections of trail that are to be built must also be designed, constructed and managed to similar multi-use standards, allowing all trail users continuous access through the trail system. To facilitate this, CORBA would strongly support an area wide exemption from the NPS rule requiring a Special Regulation to allow mountain biking on new trails (36 CFR 4.30). This would help increase the available recreational opportunities to residents of the densely populated valleys along the corridor. Finally, all existing multi-use trails in areas to be designated as Wilderness should be grandfathered in to maintain their multi-use status.

Applying multi-use principles to all new construction will ensure the widest possible support from the public, and will subsequently serve the largest number of people possible. Long distance backcountry travel, shorter loops and point-to-point options are desired by all non-motorized trail users, including and especially off-road cyclists. A variety of options will help encourage city dwellers to get out into the open spaces for exercise and recreation, whether they choose to do so on foot, horseback or human-powered bicycles.

It is not just the opportunity for long-distance backcountry travel that makes this such an important project. The prospect of experiencing multiple ecosystems and wildlife habitats along a continuous trail network is remarkable. A continuous wildlife corridor would help protect and preserve the flora and fauna, allowing wildlife to flourish. If these existing corridors are preserved, expanded and linked, wildlife populations will not eventually be confined to mere “islands” of open space. The importance of this to the health of the remaining ecosystems cannot be understated.

Already we have lost some valuable portions of Marge’s original vision to the developers of the Santa Monica Mountains foothills near Reseda and Porter Ranch to the north. Much more undeveloped land within the corridor is under private ownership and vulnerable to sale for development. We would hope that such parcels could be identified and brought into the system by the NPS or other agencies when and if they are put on the market. This remaining land needs long-term permanent protection whether or not a Rim of the Valley master plan is fully developed or ready for implementation.

The mountain biking community has a successful ongoing relationship with the National Park Service and many other land managers and agencies along the study corridor. CORBA volunteers contribute many thousands of hours of volunteer labor in the form of trail maintenance and open space preservation annually in areas within the study corridor.

We also hope that federal funding for this project would be allocated in such a way that the NPS and respective agencies can serve the greatest number of people, while preserving as much contiguous open space as possible.

It would seem appropriate for the NPS to follow the model already in use in the Santa Monica Mountains to provide oversight and guidance between these disparate land managers and help facilitate and foster more inter-agency cooperation.

There are challenges in this approach, though none are insurmountable. One concern will be where City of Los Angeles open space, which does not presently support multi-use, abuts land owned and managed by multi-use proponents. Where trails pass from L.A. City jurisdiction into that of another agency, there exist different standards along the same trail. We would hope that the NPS could provide the necessary oversight to ensure that the urban interface to the trail system and the trail system itself would be managed so that all trail users, including cyclists, have through-access. This would help maximize the value to the community at large and help encourage healthful recreation.

Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that off-road cyclists can enjoy multi-use trails with similar impact to hikers, and less overall impact than equestrians. We also understand that water and vegetative growth are the primary processes necessitating ongoing trail maintenance, which CORBA and other groups accomplish on a volunteer basis. We would hope and trust that the NPS as a lead agency would apply proven successful multi-use principles to the entire trail system. The prospect of a partnership between multiple agencies under the NPS to preserve and improve recreational access and the environment is one that all CORBA members and supporters can get behind.

We are encouraged by the current study process, and look forward to working with the NPS and other agencies to protect this diminishing resource and the recreational and environmental opportunities it presents. Our volunteer trail crews are ready and willing to contribute to new multi-use trail planning, design and construction, and the ongoing maintenance of multi-use trails throughout the proposed corridor. In fact, CORBA has “adopted” trails within the corridor.

CORBA fully supports the National Park Service as the lead oversight agency to bring Marge Feinberg’s vision to fruition, to protect and preserve this incredible open space, wildlife habitat and the recreational opportunities therein.

Respectfully,

Concerned Off Road Bicyclists Association

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