Mountain bikers protest Laguna Beach trail’s closure

Mountain bikers wheelie past Laguna Beach City Hall during a protest on June 23. Photo courtesy of Carmen Rey

At least 50 people, including many riding mountain bikes, gathered outside Laguna Beach City Hall during the city council meeting Tuesday to protest OC Parks’ decommissioning of a local trail.

They earned honks from passing cars while hoisting signs that read “Make Laguna Shreddy Again” and “Embrace 30+ Years Laguna Beach Mt. Biking Don’t Criminalize!”

Members of the Laguna Beach mountain biking community were dismayed to learn in early June that OC Parks started to decommission an unpermitted trail, known to outdoor enthusiasts as PG’s Trail, east of the 2900 block of Laguna Canyon Road.

“The City needs to understand what mountain biking means to its community and how they contribute without having anything invested into our interests,” Laguna Beach-based mountain biker Hans Rey wrote in an email. “They cannot just pass the buck to OC Parks, they need to understand how valuable all this is and how we contribute in a way, many artists can’t keep up with.”

Mountain bikers like Rey argue that local government agencies have failed over the last 30 years to permit and build a sufficient number of trails to accommodate the sport’s international draw to Laguna Beach.

OC Parks said in a statement that it’s obligated under agreements with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain habitat for endangered flora and fauna living within in the park.

Laguna Canyon Wilderness Park was founded to protect habitat for endangered and threatened species living in habitat such as coastal sage scrub. Some of these species are found nowhere else but in the wilderness outside Laguna Beach, said Hallie Jones, executive director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation.

“OC Parks has an obligation to protect this very sensitive habitat, these parks were preserved as wilderness parks, not as recreation parks,” Jones said. “Our right to recreate in them comes second to the environmental value.”

Rey claims that the way OC Parks decommissions trails negatively impacts the environment more than it helps.

“Huge holes were dug up (which will turn into deep ruts and could potentially cause a mudslide), but the environment 50 [to] 100 feet each side of the trail was disturbed by gathering rocks, branches, [and] cactus… to block the trail,” Rey wrote in an email.

As a response to Rey’s comment, OC Parks spokesperson Marisa O’Neil outlined the agency’s standards practices.

“Decompacting trail tread is a common technique used to close trails,” O’Neil wrote in an email. “Shallow holes are dug the length of the trail in order to trap native seeds and water in order to initiate and speed up the restoration process. Additionally, the trail tread is broken up with pickaxes and native seeds and cactus are added along the trail tread.”

This clash between some mountain bikers and environmentalists isn’t a new phenomenon, Jones said.

“There has been a history of a lack of collaboration between the environmental community and the mountain biking community that impacts our ability to protect the land that we all love,” Jones said.

Some of the mountain bikers who organized Tuesday’s protest argue that the time has come for Laguna Beach to take a more active role in supporting mountain bikers and lobby county officials to establish authorized trails that don’t run through sensitive habitat.

“We were told that PG’s Trail was destroyed because they had to do something about unauthorized trail building,” Laguna Beach resident Jesse Peterson wrote in a statement. “Well, PG’s is over 20 years old as proven by historic satellite imagery, so that trail should not have gotten treated the way it did.”

Although Peterson admits that safety is usually not one of the things not associated with their sport, mountain bikers would like to see the perception changed through advocacy. He argues that if city officials could help build a bike-specific park that would decrease the amount of traffic on the multi-use trails.

“It would be nice if the City of Laguna Beach would emphatically join us as we try to protect and enhance off-road bicycling in the area,” Peterson wrote.

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  1. Laguna Coast Wilderness Park was dedicated in April 1993 celebrating an enormous land preservation achievement made possible by a consortium of private, public and nonprofit efforts. More than 3,000 units, golf courses, a fire station, commercial centers and a school had been planned for the Laguna Laurel section of Laguna Canyon. But in October 1989 eight thousand people participated in the Walk along Laguna Canyon to the site of Dilley Preserve to demonstrate their advocacy for the preservation of the land. This led to the successful start of the acquisition of the Laguna Laurel parcels and the creation of a wilderness park dedicated to the preservation of the coastal canyon habitat.
    Our protesting mt. bikers need to remember this enormous effort to preserve a heritage area, one of the last remaining undeveloped coastal canyons in southern California. Our mt. bike community needs to be part of the effort to preserve the land, not slash new trails for their thrill rides, while ignoring the guidelines for the management of the land. Let’s work together to make sure this land with its unique habitat is still flourishing 50 years from now.
    Mary Fegraus

  2. Go Mountain Bikers! It’s nice to protect the environment, but people should be able to co-exist within that environment as well.

  3. Would be nice if mountain bikers were more respectful of ALL trails, which were not created as SPEEDWAYS, but as routes in the natural wonder off busy streets. As a hiker, more and more I am amazed at the callous treatment of pedestrians on trails – as if bikers have the right-of-way and very few (there are those exceptions) show consideration for the shared resource. Maybe they should get off and see how many creatures they crush as they rush past, how many single track trails they ‘widen’ by their desire to hit a bump or jump a small ravine. I like to bike, and I like to hike. But respect needs to be increased, both for the trails and for the humans that want to walk them.

  4. Bikers destroyed the trails we had up in Mt Charleston. They would fly down completely out of control hitting people just taking a leisure hike. They would make there own trails with shovels destroying rare flowers. Vegas does nothing about this Laguna is different , they take care of the mountain area..Thank goodness


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