Work Party Gives State Park a Spring Cleaning

Times Staff Writer

Bob Hotel, a 55-year-old ex-track coach who last Saturday ran 24 miles to the top of Mt. Wilson, spent several hours Sunday swinging a pickax, helping to cut a new trail through Point Mugu State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains.

“I stretched out real good before I came here,” the Manhattan Beach resident said, with sweat rolling down his nose. “Besides, I’m not using my legs, just my upper body.”

Pam Maine, 29, an executive secretary and mountain bike enthusiast who wanted to improve the image of bicyclists as well as the trails, also swung an ax during the eighth annual “Trail Days” working party.

“Mountain bikers are supposedly folks who rip up trails,” said Maine, a Woodland Hills resident who is training to compete in national off-road bike events. “We’re doing our thing for the cause of mountain bikers, so the Sierra Club won’t look upon us so badly.”

Bikers and Hikers

Nearly a dozen mountain bikers worked side-by-side with about 30 hikers last weekend during the two-day spring cleanup event, sponsored by the Sierra Club, the state Department of Parks and Recreation and the mountains’ Trail Council.

Although bikers are restricted to fire roads and not allowed to use the park’s trails, several said they hope someday their efforts will pay off with greater access.

“We’re trying to work with other user groups to show we’re not just a bunch of young kamikazes,” said biker Peter Heuman, 33, of Woodland Hills as he dug rocks and roots out of a trail in Sycamore Canyon. “We’re trying to give something back to the mountains, as well as to use them.”

Point Mugu, popular among bikers and horse riders as well as hikers, is an area near the western edge of the Santa Monica Mountains in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. It can be reached from Thousand Oaks to the north or from the Pacific Coast Highway on the south.

Short Section

The weekend working party concentrated on a 1 1/2-mile section of the 55-mile Backbone Trail that runs from the Pacific Ocean near Point Mugu up to the spine of the mountains and down to end at Will Rogers State Park. In the area where most of the crew worked Sunday beneath a startling blue sky, the air was pungent with sage. Sharp-spined yucca guarded the hillsides and golden yarrow and elderberry provided splashes of color.

Wayne Deese, a state park ranger, said the turnout for the weekend event was smaller than expected. But, he said, “everybody that’s been here really worked, so we got almost as much done.”

The Sierra Club’s Ron Webster, who has been building trails in the Santa Monicas for 17 years, said half a mile of trail was pioneered last weekend. Other crews were to return to smooth and widen it. Volunteers also helped remove obsolete fencing and cut brush and branches encroaching on the trail.

“We were able to get a lot of work done that wouldn’t get done in the course of normal park work,” Webster said.

Sore Muscles

The price of the hard work, however, was paid in sore muscles and bandaged blisters. Dennis Halliwell, 34, of Tujunga worked both days, camping Friday and Saturday nights at Danielson Ranch to get an early start. On Sunday, he complained of blisters on his hands, a sore back and tender thigh muscles.

“For the next couple of days, I’ll feel it,” said Halliwell, who said he lifts nothing heavier than screwdrivers in his job installing commercial sound systems. But the discomfort has not deterred him from returning for four years running to work on the trails.

“We’re just doing our part, since we use them,” Halliwell said.

Halliwell’s friend and hiking partner, Russ Marshall, 46, of Simi Valley agreed. “There’s a lot of good trails out there . . . and I figured somebody had to build those trails I hiked on, so I thought I’d help,” said the burly Marshall, a supervisor at a dairy in the City of Industry.

Besides, he said, “sometimes when you’re working on the trails, hikers come by and say ‘Thanks,’ and that makes my day.”