Happy Trails to You, But Not in La Crescenta

We are blessed in the Crescenta Valley with incredible natural beauty. We’re sheltered on both sides by unspoiled mountains, like two loving arms embracing us. And of course, we have great access to these mountains for hiking, biking, equestrian sports, and just plain finding solitude – but not in La Crescenta!

Let me elaborate. On the west side of the Crescenta Valley, the Glendale portion of CV is very oriented to the open space surrounding it, and the city promotes public access as part of its civic function. The Glendale Parks Department employs park naturalists to educate people on accessing the wild lands around them, employs a trail coordinator to create and maintain trails, and a grant writer to find funds for supporting these activities.

As I outlined in last week’s column, Glendale is restoring Deukmejian Park into a premiere hiking destination with new trails, refurbished old trails, and eventually a docent-run nature center in the old stone barn. Outside the park, a new loop trail in the San Rafael Hills above the Sports Complex next to the 2 Freeway will be completed by the end of summer. The City offers a constant stream of outdoor activities, such as guided hikes, hiking safety classes, and outreach to open-space poor South Glendale.

On the east side of CV, La Cañada/Flintridge has a model trail system, featuring 23 miles of interconnecting trails. Their trails are unusual in that they traverse through neighborhoods, using easements between houses, and they accommodate horses, a nod to their historical roots under the horse-loving Senator Frank Flint. It has to be about the only trail system in SoCal to feature a trail across a freeway. Yes, you can hike over the 210 Freeway via a trail opened on top of one of the enclosed flood control channels crossing over the highway. The credit for all this goes to the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council, a non-profit, volunteer organization established in 1974. They work closely with the City of La Cañada/Flintridge and the County to coordinate volunteer efforts and acquire grants to maintain and expand their trails. If you’ve driven by Descanso Gardens recently you may have noticed a brand-new trailhead across the street that appears about to be opened.

But in the center of CV lies La Crescenta proper, unincorporated and administered by the County. And our trail system? Zero, zilch, nada, nothing! Although we bound the magnificent San Gabriel Mountains from Pennsylvania Avenue to Pickens Canyon, there is not a single public access point through a solid wall of chain-link fence. Old trail maps show many established paths winding up from the valley into the mountains, through Pickens, Goss, Eagle, and Shields canyons, but all have been blocked by property owners worried about their privacy and their liability. Several ad hoc groups have tried over the years to establish portals, but all have failed.

The current champion of this effort is La Crescenta resident Paul Rabinov.

Paul has been involved in promoting local biking and hiking for several years. The new bike lanes on Foothill, although a collaborative effort, were spearheaded by Rabinov. He’s very involved with both the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, an Altadena based group sharing the Santa Monica group’s goals. Rabinov is leading a small group of locals who are working to create some sort of access to the mountain trails from La Crescenta. Paul has already helped the County Parks Department get a grant to establish a trailhead at Two Strike Park, which would be the first leg of a trail into the San Gabriels. Both Glendale and La Cañada are supportive, and wait on either wing to connect their trails to whatever get’s built in the center. This effort is extremely complex and delicate, and must balance private property rights with the good of the community. But if anyone can do this it’s the very diplomatic Paul Rabinov.

Paul, I wish you well, and I support you. I’ve got my hiking boots laced up, and I’m right behind you!