Call Boxes Will Enable Hikers to Make Call From Wild


The installation of 15 trail-side call boxes will make it a little easier to report medical emergencies or crime in the county’s more than 30,000 acres of remote trails and parklands.

Designed like freeway call boxes, the recently installed solar-powered phones will link park and trail users to a sheriff’s dispatcher 24 hours a day for immediate assistance.

“A lot of the time people are on the trail by themselves, and this gives them a communication link with an emergency response system,” said Tim Miller, manager of county’s Harbors, Beaches and Parks Division.


Seven of the call boxes are in the Aliso and Woods Canyon, Riley and Caspers wilderness parks; five are in Whiting Ranch and O’Neill regional parks; and three were installed along the Santa Ana River Trail in Orange.

Patterned after Sacramento’s successful call-box system on the American River, the link not only provides rapid response to crime and injuries, but also enables trail users to report fires and injured wildlife.

Unfortunately, the call boxes are not marked on current trail maps. But future maps will note the call boxes’ location, said Jeff Dickman, regional trails chief.

Cisca Stellhorn, an Orange County horse owner and former member of the California Park Trails Foundation, called the system “an excellent idea” because it helps everyone, including cell phone owners who can’t get access to the network in canyon areas.

“Just the other day, my brother was riding behind Silverado Canyon and someone from his group got hurt and it took them a long time to get him help because they couldn’t get cell-phone access,” she said.

The reality is that anyone can be injured or bitten by a rattlesnake, and the ability to get help quickly is paramount--”especially if you’re four miles up in a canyon,” said Michael Sappingfield, chairman of Sierra Sage, the Sierra Club’s Orange County chapter.


The yellow boxes were funded by the Orange County Transportation Authority, the Santa Ana River Enhancement Fund and county Harbors, Beaches and Parks.

The system links the caller to the sheriff’s communications center on Loma Ridge. A dispatcher will contact the officials, including sheriff’s deputies, fire or paramedics, or park rangers.

The 15 boxes were bought and installed for $55,000 and will cost about $6,000 a year to operate.