Hikers and canines from across Los Angeles flocked to their beloved Runyon Canyon Park on Tuesday morning after four long months of city-imposed separation.
The park, which offers sweeping views of L.A., was closed temporarily so that crews could replace an aging 6-inch water main that snakes through the canyon for roughly a mile, as well as make other improvements.
Some returning park fans began their exercises just after dawn to take advantage of the lower temperatures and cloud cover, while others began hoofing the newly reopened trails later in the morning.
Lauren Trotter and Alicia Rulas finished their hike about 10 a.m. and offered mixed reviews of the improvements. The new water fountains were perfect for making sure that pets on the trail stay hydrated, they said, but they gave a thumbs-down to the asphalt that now covers their favorite trail.
Rulas, who brought her neighbor's golden retriever, Seven, along for the hike, said that once the macadam began to bake in the heat, it could burn dogs' paws.
"I'm glad they at least didn't add the basketball court," Rulas, 20, said, referring to a project to add a corporate-branded basketball court in the park.
The court would have been placed partway up a hiking trail, but was shut down in June following virulent public outcry.
"It doesn't feel like a nature walk at all," Trotter said as she stood in front of a snack stand near the Fuller Avenue park entrance.
The 23-year-old, who lives down the street from Runyon, said the trail felt less physically challenging because of the asphalt.
About 1.8 million people visit Runyon Canyon each year, with 35,000 coming each week, according to the Friends of Runyon Canyon organization. The park is particularly popular because dogs can explore much of its territory off-leash.
The entire 137-acre park — except for the yoga field — was closed to the public on April 1, when crews began replacing the pipeline.
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officials said closing the trails allowed construction crews to work longer hours, making the repair process faster and more efficient.
The closure also ensured the public's safety, they said.
"This, for us, was a public safety issue," said Estevan Montemayor, a spokesman for City Councilman David Ryu, whose district includes the park.
The repairs were finished on time and under budget, Montemayor said.
"It was inconvenient to close the park for a few months, but in the long term it will keep the park and users safe," he said.
The park features two main trails, and crews resurfaced one of them with asphalt. (The trail was originally surfaced in asphalt, but it disintegrated and was covered with sand over the years.)
Montemayor said officials spent additional funds to place a concrete dusting over the new asphalt paths to lower its temperature, so hikers don't need to worry about their pets.
"They did temperature testing once before the concrete was placed and once after and it has substantially lowered the temperature," he said.
Mitchell Lyubarsky brought a friend who was visiting from Sweden to show her Runyon's famous views and celebrity-studded trails.
The Brentwood resident said he hiked in the park at least three times a week before it temporarily closed.
Lyubarsky said he too had problems with the new pavement — he prefers the dirt trail — but still enjoyed the experience.
"It's a nice hike to wake up to," he said.
The reopening inspired Karen Mendoza to start a new exercise group called We Hike Runyon.
"I knew people would be excited, and I wanted to make sure people come more than just today," Mendoza, 30, said as she stood behind a booth at the bottom of a trail.
The nutrition coach hadn't hiked the trails as of 10:30 a.m., but said she planned on making the trip later in the day, after she finished promoting her group and taking photos of people with her "We Hike Runyon" sign.
Drenched in sweat after hiking all morning, Darian Braddy, 37, said he loved the newly paved trails.
"It's beautiful and comfortable for your feet," he said. "It's more clean and more safe."
Braddy trekked the trails on the last day the park was open to watch the sunset, he said, adding that the four-month closure was worth the wait.
"I love it," he said. "You get to the top and you see Los Angeles. You see all the dreams that can be pursued here."
For more local and breaking news, follow me on Twitter: @sarahparvini
MORE LOCAL NEWS