By Michael BRUER
Melinda Thompson and Bill Scherkey were confused. The La Cañada couple didn’t understand why the access point to the Cross Town Trail at the west end of Flanders Road in La Cañada Flintridge had been closed. The entrance lies directly in front of their home, and was closed by the L.A. County Parks and Recreation Dept. in mid-December.
According to Public Information Officer Andre Herndon of parks and rec, the entrance on Flanders Road was improperly created by a resident.
“We understand that some people have come to consider the gate as a convenience, but we have an obligation to address safety concerns and to abide by the terms of our agreement with [Southern California] Edison,” said Herndon. “One of those terms is to maintain the repairs of the fence.”
The staff of the L.A. Parks and Recreation Dept. was first notified of the access point in November, and the fence was subsequently repaired in mid-December. However, the origins of the entrance are documented as far back as 15 years ago, according to Senior Management Analyst Carl Alameda of the city of La Cañada Flintridge.
“A hole in the fence was known of as far back as 1999, and in 2002 that hole was used for a gate, installed by a local resident. In late November 2013, an issue came up about the potential of having dogs off-leash along that trail. A resident called to voice her opposition to just that, which the city learned of in early December,” Alameda explained. “The County then examined the gate, deemed it as vandalism, and removed it in mid-December.”
Alameda said the original complaint came from a resident of the area who was concerned about dogs off their leashes and loitering near the trail entrance.
Many of the other residents of the surrounding neighborhoods are upset at the recent closure, including Kevin Frazier.
“A lot of us are very upset. My mom has been walking these trails for 50 years,” said Frazier. “It’s kind of sad that they have to be closed due to one woman’s complaint.”
While the county’s official stance on the issue is resolute, there are steps in place to try and negotiate a compromise. L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich met with La Cañada City Council members on Wednesday to discuss the Cross Town trail and potentially reopen the access point on Flanders Road. While the meeting did not add any new elements to the issue, strong points were made by several concerned residents, including a prepared statement from Dale Frazier (delivered by her daughter-in-law Marie Frazier), Bill Scherkey, and Caroline Craven, president of the La Cañada Trails Council.
In the meantime, trail users are encouraged to utilize other entrances.
“There are properly recorded access points to the trail, and we encourage everyone to use those entrances and enjoy the trail,” said Herndon.
In speaking with Frazier before the meeting, he emphasized the camaraderie built on the trails, as well as the value they have in the community.
“You have your trail buddies – people you meet walking your dog. I think in today’s world we need more of that, getting outside and seeing and interacting with other people in nature.” He also commented on the safety concerns the closure created, including eliminating an easy access points for students of La Cañada Elementary.
“Kids access Flanders Road and use that trail to go to school, and play there on their way home. You take that away and now they are forced to find other, potentially more dangerous routes.”
At the Jan. 8 La Cañada Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, the trail access point closure was an agenda item. Prior to the meeting, the city received two letters that requested the closure remain in place. During the meeting, multiple residents requested that the entrance be reinstalled. Many residents cited the difficulty of getting to the other access points, that they would be forced to drive to another point along the trail to gain access, defeating the intended purpose of the trail. The Commission voted 5-0 to reinstall the access. The plans were then pending SCE approval, which owns the land.
On the ensuing conference call, Edison deferred to the county, which refused to reinstall the access point. The county has asked the city to send a proposal, which, according to Alameda, includes provisions for the city to pay for the installation.
“The proposal that was sent indicated that the city of La Cañada would pay for the new gate, trim the trees, and make the access point level.”
“We have worked with the city and the county with concern to our interest in keeping the gate open,” said Craven. “We have worked with the residents, who contacted us through our Facebook page. It was nice to be alerted to the situation.
“It is in our trail master plan that there is an access point there, but I am not sure if county has that access point on their map. It would be nice if we could follow our trail master plan as we intended, to have a nice safe entryway that appeals to all parties. It’s all about accessing our trails. If you don’t go in at that entrance you have to go over a half mile to reach it, which is not what our trails are about.
“I think it’s great for the kids of La Cañada Elementary to get into nature in that way. Otherwise they are stuck with traffic and cars, or stuck on the trail.”