New Local Film – “The Trails of La Cañada”
I’ve often written about the mountains surrounding us and the wonderful hiking opportunities near the Crescenta Valley. Surprisingly, the highest concentration of hiking trails is right next door to us, within the small city of La Cañada Flintridge. La Cañada, which many of us view as an exclusive enclave for the wealthy, has a long tradition of hiking and equestrian trails dating back to its inception, which its residents have fiercely protected. For the first time, a history of those trails, and the community that has fought to protect them, has been put together in the form of a film by CV resident and independent filmmaker John Newcombe.
La Cañada’s trail system began with early resident Will Gould, whose ranch covered the area above Foothill between Angeles Crest Highway and the Arroyo. In the late 1800s, he cut miles of horse trails through the valley and foothills and freely opened them to public use. When Frank Flint established Flintridge in the ’teens, he too built miles of trails for public use.
For the first half of the 20th Century, these miles of trails, the “Gouldmont Flintridge Bridal Trails,” were in constant use and really defined the suburban community setting it apart from more urban-style developments in L.A. But during the post-WWII building boom, some developers built right over the trails, and within 20 years the trail system that had been the pride of the community was fragmented. In other towns the same trail closures were happening. CV’s trail access to the San Gabriels was slowly choked off during that post-war boom as homes and fences went up along the edge of the national forest.
But in the early ’70s, something happened in La Cañada that was to be the beginning of a movement – an inspirational example of a community charting its own course, and a grass-roots battle against greed for preservation of “quality of life.” A higher-up in Southern California Edison got nervous about the public using the empty land below the high power lines through La Cañada and one day a chainlink fence appeared blocking access to the land. For La Cañada trail users, this was the last straw and they began to mobilize. They formed alliances, got involved with politics, and learned how to get the attention of elected officials.
In 1974, they formed the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council, a volunteer organization with a dream – to reconnect the shattered historical trail system, develop new trails, and to protect and promote trails and open space. And for 40 years now they have been one of the great success stories in the greater Los Angeles area.
They convinced Edison to reopen its land, won several legal battles with developers to reopen trails, and attracted grant money to build new trails. Two great triumphs for the group have been to spearhead the purchase of Cherry Canyon as permanent open space, and to connect the long dreamed of “Loop Trail” which circumnavigates the entire city from the San Gabriel Mountains to the San Rafaels.
In John Newcombe’s film, we watch the story of this hard fought community gem – how the trails were first developed, how they were almost lost, and how a small group of dedicated citizens fought for and won them back in a classic tale of development versus open space. The film, besides being entertaining, inspirational and educational, also contains a visual guide to all of the city’s trails, showing maps of routes and access points and videos of the features and beauty of each trail. This is a great “starter guide” for those who wish to take up hiking close to home, or those looking for some quiet shaded walking paths. For the seasoned hikers and bikers, this film will give them the background on trails they may have already enjoyed.
This DVD makes a great Christmas gift and is available at local bookstores, Amazon.com, or direct from Newcombe at www.rancholacanada.com.
The trails of La Cañada – 23 miles of dedicated hiking, biking and equestrian public access, linking our valley’s neighborhoods directly to the great mountains above us.