City's trail loop almost finished

A set of small trail projects in La Cañada Flintridge is expected to make a big difference for users of the city's extensive trail network.

A new wilderness path now under construction between Verdugo Boulevard and Descanso Drive will, along with crossings planned for those streets, close the circle of a loop-trail system that extends for than 12 miles around Descanso Gardens, through Cherry Canyon, along Oak Grove Park and up toward the Angeles National Forest and back through town. Completion is set for early next year.

Negotiations are also underway to utilize Southern California Edison property along Indiana Avenue south of the Armstrong Gardens nursery, though trail users are able to use the streetway there.

"This has been a 35-year dream," said Randy Strapazon, past president of the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council. "There will soon be access to the trails network at any point in the city that has an entrance."

La Canada's soon-to-be-unbroken circular network of city- and county-maintained trails accommodates horses and bicyclists, as well as hikers.

The roughly 800-foot section of trail under construction between Verdugo and Descanso will include a foot bridge that spans a wide, rocky gully. Work on the bridge and pathway started in October and is due for completion on Jan. 11, said City Engineer Ying Kwan.

The cost of the city-funded project, mostly tied to bridge construction, is $154,450 — the lowest of seven public bids, said Kwan.

Street crossings are currently going out to bid and will be funded with grant assistance from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The push to complete a looped trail system "was envisioned by the city's residents even before its incorporation and appears in the city's first general plan in 1980. It was the intention of our founding parents to move forward and close the gap. It's just so exciting that we're finally near completion of the whole thing," said Senior Management Analyst Ann Wilson.

Over the years, trail advocates have included state Assemblyman and former La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Anthony Portantino, who called for a trails master plan; Councilman Greg Brown, who pioneered the idea to extend the trail over the Foothill (210) Freeway by converting a pre-existing drainway into a foot bridge; and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who supported construction of the trails adjacent to Descanso Gardens and who hosts biannual equestrian rides throughout his district.

"Maintaining the equestrian lifestyle through enhancing trails systems is a priority of Supervisor Antonovich," said spokesman Tony Bell. "It's vital to maintain these critical junction points that connect with other parts of the county. This is part of L.A. County's history and we want to make sure it's a part of its future."

The city's trails connect with others that lead into the Angeles National Forest, where the network hooks up with the Pacific Crest Trail, which extends north to Canada and south to Mexico. The network also includes forks that lead to Pasadena and Altadena, while La Crescenta and Glendale trails advocates are currently exploring ways to connect to the La Cañada network, said Strapazon.

Brown, who plans to retire from the council in March, said completion of the loop-trail system is one of the city's major accomplishments in his time.

"I call them linear parks," said Brown. "Not only have we not lost trails, but we've been adding for the first time in a long while."

Strapazon said it was difficult to quantify just how important it is to be eliminating dead ends in the trail system.

"People don't like to take a walk and then have to turn around and come back. We want to start from one point and be able to get back there," she said. "It's just part of human nature, I guess."

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