Changes to dirt trails throughout Laguna Beach disappoint some cyclists

Some of Laguna Beach’s thrill-seeking cyclists told Laguna Canyon Foundation officials Monday they were disappointed with changes to sections of dirt trails throughout the Laguna Coast and Aliso and Wood Canyons wilderness parks.

Foundation executive director Hallie Jones had called a public meeting at the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Center to discuss trail maintenance and listen to concerns.

The foundation, a nonprofit focused on preserving the South Coast Wilderness Area, announced last year that it and OC Parks would realign and smooth portions of multiple trails to prevent erosion and keep cyclists on the routes, which hikers also use.

Professional trail specialists and volunteers have packed damp dirt along trail edges to create berms and, in some portions, embedded rocks to funnel rainwater to either side.

Some of the trails evolved over time from former ranching roads.

Water allowed to funnel down a trail can create deep gouges, which is what foundation and parks officials want to avoid, the Coastline Pilot reported last year.

But some cyclists said the work sacrificed steeper, challenging trail sections.

Chris Herzfeld, a cyclist and Laguna Beach High School principal, mentioned areas of Coyote Run, Laguna Ridge and Stairsteps trails.

“We understand the tendency of mountain bikes to push trails wider and wider,” Herzfeld said. “I don’t think anyone wants to see us lose the advanced trails.

“There are not many challenging legal trails.”

An influx of visitors to Laguna Coast and Aliso and Wood Canyons wilderness parks in recent years has strained trails.

Ten years ago, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park saw 16,000 annual visitors. Now the total hovers around 400,000, Jones said.

Alan Kaufmann, the foundation’s restoration program director, said Monday that the Laguna Ridge trail used to be a “narrow, single track” route but had grown to 30 to 40 feet wide in a section.

“There was no way for us to fix the trail while staying in the original alignment,” Kaufmann said. “We did a reroute while trying to do the least resource damage.”

The trail was closed for months last year after a brush fire that charred nearly 50 acres in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

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