I, like many of my Laguna Beach friends and neighbors, was extremely disappointed to learn that the Planning Commission approved the redevelopment plans of the new owners of Aliso Canyon golf course without taking any action to create a pedestrian/bicycle trail connecting Laguna to the water district road leading to Aliso Viejo. Such a trail, which I understand was always a required part of the prior developer’s plans, would provide a safe and relatively flat path to the hundreds of miles of bike paths and wilderness trails in Aliso Viejo, Laguna Niguel and beyond, reduce automobile traffic coming into Laguna, and allow the public, not just a handful of wealthy tourists and golfers, to enjoy the aptly-named Yosemite of Laguna. At various times over the years the metal fencing between the golf course property and the water road has been open and my friends and I have walked or biked through the enclosure to Aliso Viejo. The canyon route is remarkably beautiful and should be open for all to responsibly enjoy.
In a recent Laguna Independent article, the new golf course owners’ spokesman is quoted as saying the path was not included in the plans because flying balls would be unsafe and golfers’ views would be obscured. Did the Planning Commission thoroughly investigate these conclusions and the feasibility of the path on behalf of the public it represents? A simple Google search reveals numerous articles and studies contradicting claims that golf courses and public trails are not compatible. One particularly well-researched 2005 ALTA study entitled “Trails and Golf Courses: Best Practices on Design and Management” concludes that, despite golf course owners’ resistance, trails and golf courses co-exist around the country with few reported problems.
Despite the best and laudable efforts of groups trying to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety on Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road, these are heavily trafficked roads that will never be entirely safe. On the other hand, an Aliso Canyon trail would be safe and would connect to hundreds of additional miles of safe trails throughout OC. It would truly be shameful if our elected leaders in Laguna allow this one opportunity to create a trail through Aliso Canyon golf course to be lost forever. I urge our City Council members, bicycle and pedestrian safety advocates and all others who would like to see safer and less automobile-congested streets in Laguna Beach to further investigate this matter and to do what they can to cause any redevelopment of the golf course property to include a public pedestrian/bicycle trail.
Bill Larkin, Laguna Beach