At a local trails committee meeting Tuesday night, county consultants charged with gathering public input for a report on envisioning Altadena's future heard about concerns over the Altadena Crest Trail, Altadena's equestrian uses, and bike improvements.
Community planner Mina Brown, a consultant with RBF Consulting, got an earful Tuesday evening at the Altadena Crest Trail Restoration Working Group (ACTRWG) meeting when discussing county progress on those issues.
Hired by Los Angeles County Community Development Commission to get feedback for updating the zoning regulations in the Altadena Community Standards District, RBF has been meeting with interest groups as well as holding visioning workshops for broader ideas on how to shape Altadena's future.
“At this point, the county is only committed to zoning issues,” Brown said, but wants to take this “opportunity to open discussion up and see what residents want.”
Open space and recreation issues were among the key issues identified at the .
The primary focus of the Tuesday night was the Altadena Crest Trail.
Several themes recurred throughout the discussion, especially the historical use of trails and streets in Altadena; the needs of the current residents; the scuttling of promised improvements and preservation by the county, either actively or through neglect; and rights of way.
What’s going on with the Altadena Crest Trail?
The Altadena Crest Trail historically connected Eaton Canyon with Arroyo Seco as a low-elevation pathway used by the Native American residents as well as subsequent settlers. In the past few decades, parts of it have been encroached by property owners, disappeared on tract maps, or moved by the forces of nature.
Lori Paul, a working group member, stated that the trail, when completed, will provide free recreation and educational experiences that will encourage children to get into nature. It will connect to several other trails throughout the Angeles National Forest and be a part of both the Emerald Horseshoe of parks and trails in the Los Angeles area and the Rim of the Valley Trail supported by Congressman Adam Schiff.
The trail in its current state has three major gaps. The easternmost portion, in Rubio Canyon, is owned by the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which will allow trail development and access.
The westernmost portion is still under dispute with the La Viña Homeowners Association and is currently in court, though . “The county plopped the La Viña development right on top of that trail,” Paul said. Staehle added, “The route of that gap will be laid out in the court settlement.”
The middle portion, roughly between Skylane Drive near the Loma Alta Elementary School site and Summer Kids Camp on Fair Oaks above Loma Alta Drive, is more problematic. The Zorthians have promised access through their ranch, but there has been difficulty reopening the trail through Summerkids Camp. That section was closed off so long ago that owners say there is no evidence of it within the camp, though there are visible remains on each side, Staehle said.
Access to the trail through easements, increased entry points, and extended hours was mentioned many times as being important to encouraging use. The Altadena Crest Trail Restoration Working Group wants to ensure that future development permits will include provisions for trail easements, telling Brown that the county needs to pay attention to how development impacts trails and to involve the community before issuing permits.
The working group would also like to have more access points in the adjoining neighborhoods with the goals of making it easier for more residents to get on the trail and providing shorter “loops” for hikers.
Regarding hours, the county treats trails like parks, which close at sunset, Paul said, while the Angeles Forest is open 24/7. “The trail is used quite a bit after sunset,” she said, mentioning there are people who like to go on night hikes to look for wildlife or to observe the astronomical events away from the city lights.
Plans Not Implemented
The historic uses of the area, plans that were made in the past and not implemented, ordinances that were passed and not enforced, and policies that have been neglected were brought up repeatedly in planning for the future of both mountain and street usage.
Several people indicated that there are old maps of the area that include the Altadena Crest Trail trail, and there have been agreements and policies approved by the Board of Supervisors that have not been enforced. These documents area available to the supervisors.
Developers and landowners have been allowed to build on or fence off trails that should have been protected, according to members of the working group, who argued that access should not be in the hands of private residents, as is the case with the and other areas.
The laws and plans already developed should be considered. In the residential and commercial areas, the rights of way owned by the county should be utilized, including addressing landscaping and fencing that comes to the edge of the street in areas where there are no sidewalks.
“Don’t reinvent the wheel,” Paul told Brown. “Take what we’ve already done.”
Brown concluded, “I think you want the county’s eye on the ball. That comes through clear.” The Altadena Crest Trail Working Group wants to be a review body, she said. “A trails council,” Paul responded.
Staehle agreed. “It would be helpful for any property development that affects trails to come before this group for review.”
Check the site for further coverage on the trail group's input into equestrian and bike use.