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WESTERN CHINO : A New Neighborhood of ‘Empty-Nesters’ : Bigger Homes, No Stairs Lure Retirees; Lots of Trails, but Cars Outnumber Horses

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A stranger came to the door of Shirley Geddes’ home in Chaparral Trails Equestrian Estates the other day.

“Come right in!” she said to the unexpected visitor, turning to introduce him to her husband, who was watching television near the kitchen. Jack Geddes, a retired architect, waved and rose politely to shake hands.

Only when they had invited their guest to a seat in their living room did they inquire about his business.

That’s how they treat strangers at Chaparral Trails Equestrian Estates, a subdivision of 38 houses built over the last two years on the western edge of the dairy land city of Chino in San Bernardino County.

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Adjoining Horse Trails

After raising two children in Whittier, the Geddeses sold the family home and bought a bigger house in this walled and virtually treeless neighborhood, which features a horse trail adjoining every lot.

However, like nearly all of the other homeowners, Jack and Shirley Geddes do not own a horse and have no intention of doing so. They moved here for the resale potential and a floor plan that spared them climbing stairs.

“I miss some of the conveniences of an older neighborhood,” Jack added, recalling Whittier’s Friendly Hills area. “Instead of driving five miles for something, you’d drive a mile--or maybe a few blocks.”

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For a short list of groceries, Shirley Geddes drives three miles to the neighborhood market, but she can almost count the days until a shopping center will be completed closer to home. Still, she keeps things in perspective. “It will not be a full-size mall,” she said.

A Modest Addition

In a city of 52,000, well aware that too much growth too fast would choke its livability, Chaparral Trails is a modest addition of about four residential blocks.

The western wall of the community runs a quarter mile or so along a cement-lined creek next to California 71, which divides Chaparral Trails and some older subdivisions, such as Saddlewood and East End Estates, from the unincorporated area of Chino Hills, where houses, apartments and condominiums have seemed to burst out on the ridges like orchards in bloom in the last seven years.

The area’s growth is bounded on the east by dairies that are protected by tax shelters, providing greenery and wide horizons to the rest of the city--together with dairy odors on a stiff breeze.

All of these tracts are, by and large, commuter villages, with access on the Pomona Freeway to Los Angeles and Orange counties. Some of the Geddeses’ neighbors commute to Long Beach, Santa Ana and Pasadena.

What seems new in this old story of suburban development is that the development of Chaparral Trails has not been accompanied by a great increase in children. The Geddeses, whose two children are married, were surprised that most of the homeowners in their new subdivision are also “empty-nesters.”

Shirley, who was treasurer of the Chaparral Trails Homeowners Assn., estimated that only a quarter of the residents had children. Jack pronounced the neighborhood “a nice mix of young and older people; some gone for weeks at a time, others always around.”

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Their neighbor down the street, Arvon Wolverton, is a retired fire fighter. His wife is a teacher at nearby Don Antonio Lugo High School. They have no children and are frequently away in their motor home. Wolverton, who lived in Hawthorne for 15 years and Diamond Bar for 25, said he chose this neighborhood partly for the price: a four-bedroom house on a half-acre lot was fetched for $180,000, up from its original price of $160,000 two years ago.

The Geddeses’ next-door neighbors, Terry and Ruth Akins, were attracted by zoning that allows as many as three horses on the lot, and by the reduced commute to Ruth’s sales job in Santa Ana.

Road Improvements

While horses are not popular, Chaparrel Trails’ new residents have brought in a bumper crop of cars. Jack Geddes and Arvon Wolverton complained of the roads in and around their new neighborhood--the poor drainage, the long waits at signals and the stuttering at four-way stop signs.

At a realty office in Chino Hills Plaza, the community’s focal point, a note on the bulletin board advises not of school conditions, bond issues or special assessments but of road improvements, with a little map showing where and when.

Terry Akins adds that California 71 is so busy he would never attempt crossing it on horseback--"not even a quarterhorse,” he said.

But for all that, the Geddeses and others show heartfelt pleasure in their new surroundings. “In a way, I guess I’m coming home,” said Jack Geddes, whose father was a plumber in Redlands.

Streets Unshaded

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One recent Sunday, under snow-capped Mt. Baldy to the north, some teen-agers were chatting on the sidewalk at the end of the Geddeses’ street, one of them astride a dappled gray pony. Another couple, who had been vacationing, were headed down the block to collect mail at their letter box. One has to walk some way to collect mail in this neighborhood, as the letter boxes are clustered at curb sides for the convenience of motorized delivery.

To be sure, the streets are unshaded and seem a bit desolate, but one day they’ll resemble those of Saddlewood, on the other side of the back wall. That neighborhood is 10 years old and has tree-lined trails and a lived-in look.

For now, the very newness of Chaparral Trails is the ingredient that holds it together. Crime has been minimal, owing partly to watchfulness. Someone’s new Corvette was neatly stolen, Akins said, but on another occasion, neighbors thwarted three strangers attempting to steal a horse.

“Someone saw two girls leading a horse toward a trailer that nobody recognized,” he said. “The trailer was hooked up to a car that was running. Everyone put up a yell and scared them off.”

That’s how they treat rustlers at Chaparral Trails Equestrian Estates.

WESTERN CHINO AT A GLANCE Population

1988 estimate: 14,117

1980-88 change: 20.6%

Median age: 30.2 years

Racial/ethnic mix

White (non-Latino): 74%

Latino: 21%

Black: 1.4%

Other: 3.5%.

Annual income

Per capita: $12,764

Median household: $42,737

Household distribution

Less than $15,000: 10.4%

$15,000-$30,000: 16.6%

$30,000-$50,000: 36.8%

$50,000-$75,000: 26.3%

$75,000+: 9.8%


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