Who’s getting shut out of Peters Canyon?

Families with kids, casual cruisers, recreational riders from other communities are effectively denied access today.

Families with kids, casual cruisers, recreational riders from other communities are effectively denied access today.

While we hear a lot of fervent language about marauding mountain bikers– a subset of the larger mountain biking community– what’s lost on the Anti Crowd is the fact that the vast majority of bicyclists are neither marauders nor mountain bikers. They are average OC citizens who use bicycles of all types for affordable recreation, health, and transportation.

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This lady look dangerous to you? She’s just looking for a quiet place to ride.

The long awaited Class 1 trail through the Canyon is intended to link the Park with other communities, other parks, and other useful destinations. It will connect Santiago Canyon College with UCI for instance, Santiago Canyon Rd. to the Tustin Metrolink, Anaheim Hills to Newport’s Back Bay. Kids, couples, retirees, friends out for a day’s adventure, all are attracted to a safe, engineered, well paved path away from car traffic and noise.

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He’s not into rutted dirt and the mud that comes after it rains. Not to mention the dust that gets thrown into Junior’s face off his back tire.

Until the 1980s what bicyclists sought was a predictable solid surface to ride on. Then came mountain bikes, and guess what? They like to ride in the dirt. And we hear from mountain bikers in the Anti crowd who prefer to share Peters’ well worn trails with walkers, runners, and horseback riders.

But how do the majority of Antis feel about that? Apparently not too good. The comments we read talk about an overcrowded park and the “danger” of “high speed” bicyclists– by which they mean mountain bikers– whizzing by on Peters’ busy trails.

Why then, we wonder, would the Anti’s oppose a paved trail which would attract many, if not most of those very same mountain bikers? Because here’s something we’re convinced of: the majority of mountain bikers on the main trail today are just passin’ through. And if it means getting to the real trails, the single track, the hidden “toys,” the gnarly downhills some place else (say, Santiago Oaks) faster, a lot of them will hop on the pavement.

Peters Canyon Progress? – maybe

We owe readers an update on the effort to save the long-planned Class 1 trail through the Peters Canyon drainage. Here’s a synopsis to date:

While road cyclists have been traversing the Irvine Ranch roads through the canyon since the 1960s– before the advent of mountain bikes– there was no mention of official access until Orange County Flood Control included the main dirt road and path in its plans to provide a paved Class 1 mult-use trail in the 1980s.

Pavement Ends, lower Peters Canyon.

Pavement Ends, lower Peters Canyon.

A few years ago Orange County Beaches and Parks took over most Class 1 trails, existing and planned, from Flood Control. And the plan for the Class 1 was included in that agency’s development of Peters Canyon Regional Park.

From the bicyclist perspective everything was fine until this spring when those plans came to light at public input meetings held by Parks. Immediately inflamatory articles appeared in neighborhood newpapers around the Park reflecting the fears of local walkers and equestrians that hoards of “high speed bicyclists” would be hurtling down the pavement “at 35 mph.”

“Don’t pave Peters Canyon,” and “let them ride on Jamboree” seemed the sentiment of those opposing the multi-use trail.

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Private park access for a privileged few.

While such statements are NIMBY and bigoted, Peters Canyon’s value as an island of undeveloped land in a sea of suburbia cannot be denied. While a Regional Park, the majority of users come from the surrounding communities, many walking in from public parking areas or via private trails from adjacent gated neighborhoods.

The Park’s dusty trails are well trampled, some quite eroded by heavy use. And while the whine of gardeners’ leaf blowers and mowers, the coming and going of residents’ cars on the adjacent road belies any “wilderness” claims, the Park is for the most part tranquil. The northern reservoir fosters a willow and sycamore nesting habitat for a variety of birds, spring and fall it provides stop-over for migrating waterfowl.

The southern end of the canyon is dominated by a catch basin bounded on the east by a paved service road. A dirt road continues north from there over the upper dam where it once connected with Jamboree Rd.

The plans Flood Control originally proposed amounted to rolling asphalt over that main service road/ foot path. Today that would not be acceptable. Whatever plan is ultimately adopted, the rural experience of the Park for pedestrians and equestrians has to be respected.

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Viewshed encroachment and invasion of non-native plants betray claims of “wilderness” in Peters Canyon.

Until three weeks ago the only voices weighing in were from those groups. And it’s understandable that they don’t want to share. But mid July we attended the OCTA Board Meeting and spoke in defense of the Class 1 trail, which is part of that agency’s Master Plan of Commuter Bikeways. Supervisor Todd Spitzer seemed surprised that anyone would choose that time and place to defend county plans to connect the Mountains to the Sea Trail, but there we were.

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Plenty of room for a Class 1 trail separated from pedestrians and equestrians, and screened by vegetation.

As a result on July 28 a small delegation representing voters and park users from outside this community got 40 minutes from Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s Policy Advisor, Carrie O’Malley. Bruce Bauer, attorney representing the “Heart of OC” bicycle loop, OCBC Board Member Brian Cox, and well known transportation advocate, Brenda Miller made a rational case for promoting non-motorized transportation alternatives, the value of connectivity to existing segments of the Peters Canyon Trail, and equity and access for diverse user groups of our Regional Parks.

Will it impress the Supervisor? Time will tell, but we are at last being heard. At this point that’s progress, indeed.

 

Peters Canyon Planning Workshop #3

The next Peters Canyon park planning workshop is on Thursday, April 23, 6-8PM, at the Soda Fountain Building in Irvine Regional Park. Enter the park and signs will direct you to the meeting location. (Heads up: if you’re arriving by bike, bring bright lights, as it gets very dark in the park at night!)

This workshop will summarize data collected and present park planning alternatives. Participants will be invited to provide comments. Come show your support for a Class I bikeway through the park, as shown on the Master Plan of Major Riding and Hiking Trails and Off-Road Paved Bikeways.

More information on the planning process is available at the Peters Canyon General Development Plan page.

Peters Canyon General Development Plan

OC Parks is in the process of preparing a General Development Plan (GDP) for Peters Canyon Regional Park. The GDP will examine the physical, natural and cultural conditions of the park and its surrounding areas and provide a master plan that addresses current and future park programming needs, including parking, trail access, regional connectivity, and long-term management plans for ecological and hydrological sustainability within the park. Continue reading