Equestrians Mount Protest for Safe Ride Over Freeway
Equestrians in Hidden Hills will protest riding hazards and inadequate access to trails near their homes today when they saddle up to cross a two-lane bridge over the Ventura Freeway.
Riders said they will seek help from the Los Angeles Police Department in directing traffic around them as they cross a bridge linking Valley Circle Boulevard at the north with Mulholland Drive, just east of Hidden Hills.
Horse owners said they are staging the protest to draw attention to the need for a permanent horse crossing over the freeway in the west San Fernando Valley.
Horse Lane Sought
Equestrian groups have unsuccessfully sought to convince state highway planners to include a special horse lane in a planned interchange at Ventura Freeway and Valley Circle Boulevard, protest planner Sandra B. Metzger said.
Leaders of Hidden Hills Horsemen Inc. contend that heavy traffic and increasing construction in the Calabasas and Hidden Hills areas have isolated riders from a network of riding trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Horse owners maintain that land development has caused increased runoff that now continually floods a culvert, once used as a horse crossing, under the freeway in Calabasas,
“It’s not safe to lead your horse under there anymore,” Linda Palmer, president of the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, said Friday.
Long Way Around
The protesters said the only other way to reach a riding trail that starts half a mile south of the Valley Circle bridge is to carry their horses there by trailers or to ride to other freeway bridges.
Palmer said riders want a fenced-in equestrian lane included in the new $18.6-million Valley Circle interchange, which is earmarked for construction in about four years.
But state Department of Transportation officials have said that the state will not pay for a horse lane. A “firm financial commitment” from somewhere else will be required before such a crossing is included in the interchange plans, according to Caltrans planner J. E. Hallin.
Metzger said her group has appealed to Los Angeles city and county officials for help. But county officials referred the group to the city, and city officials referred it to the state.
Supporters of an equestrian crossing contend it would be used by thousands of horse owners in Hidden Hills, Woodland Hills and Bell Canyon.
Today’s ride, beginning at 9 a.m., is sponsored by the Hidden Hills City Council and Hidden Hills Horsemen, Metzger said.