Cherry Canyon rest area goes to work

Longtime local trails advocate Liz Blackwelder expressed gratitude Monday as a celebration was held to mark the completion of a rest area in Cherry Canyon that provides waters for humans and horses.

The Ultimate Destination Point, which offers views of the San Gabriel Valley and La Cañada Flintridge, was also outfitted with benches and oak trees so hikers can take a break in the shade. A pedestal was installed to help horse riders mount. The bubbler water fountains offer drinking water to thirsty trail users and their horses.

The project was a victory for Blackwelder, a 93-year-old La Cañada Flintridge resident. In 2009, she gave the city $35,000 to jump-start the effort, but the project stalled. Finally, she told officials to "commit or return my money."

In September 2012, the City Council approved the project, which was budgeted at $136,000 but cost $127,750. Besides Blackwelder's initial donation, the project received funding from private donors as well as the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and Southern California Edison. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors donated $30,000 in February.

Officials broke ground in March, with Blackwelder watching next to a trail head named for her.

On Monday night, city staff, family and friends celebrated the finished project in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Sandwiches, cookies and other appetizers were served on a table, complete with equestrian-themed paper plates and napkins, a nod to the residents who use the trails with their horses.

Randy Strapazon, a former member of the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council, arranged the event.

"I just wanted to thank everyone for all the time and effort," she told the council and city staff. "It was terrific to see this dream come true."

Caroline Craven, a member of the Trails Council, said she has already tested the fountains.

"I ride this trail and we've already been using this water so much," she said. "Everyday we go out there and it's 90 degrees already and the horses love it."

Mayor Laura Olhasso lauded Blackwelder for her activism.

"She's a wonderful role model for all of us as to how to make things happen in City Hall," said Olhasso. "We so appreciate her vision and her support for this project."

Blackwelder offered trail users some tips for exploring the new area.

"Take care of it," she said. "Don't let people tie their horses to the oak trees. The trees won't survive."

"It's up to all of you — the public — to make it a success," she added.


Follow Tiffany Kelly on Google+ and on Twitter: @LATiffanyKelly.


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