Council Mounts Campaign to Connect Horse Trails in Valley

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Source of this article – Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2004.

Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Recognizing that urban sprawl is threatening the equestrian-oriented lifestyle in many parts of Los Angeles, the City Council agreed Tuesday to develop a master plan for creating an expanded system of horse trails in the San Fernando Valley and elsewhere.

More than 20 horse enthusiasts, some decked out in cowboy hats, bolo ties and boots, appeared at the council meeting to support a study to determine the locations of existing trails and potential new trails in horse-keeping areas. Included would be the so-called Rim of the Valley communities of Sylmar, Sun Valley and Lake View Terrace.

“It is vital that we identify the trails in our area,” said Cheri Blose, president of the Sylmar Chamber of Commerce. “This area of the San Fernando Valley is one of the last bastions of open space and equestrians.”

The city recreation and parks department recognizes 63 miles of public horse trails, most of them in Griffith Park and the Hansen Dam area. But many others are on private property subject to subdivision and development, said Mary Benson of the Foothill Trails Neighborhood Council.

In addition, some developers provide horse trails that are unappealing dirt sidewalks, because the city lacks uniform standards for trails, Benson said.

A new master plan would also determine ways to link existing trails and provide a mechanism for seeking state and federal funds for a multiyear project to add more trails, she said.

While the study would focus initially on expanding the horse trail network in the Valley, City Council President Alex Padilla said he envisioned a regional plan linking many parts of the city.

If the council does not identify possible locations for trails now, council members said, future residential and commercial construction could devour all remaining open space.

The master plan would seek to preserve a way of life, Padilla said. “The Rim of the Valley neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley have a long tradition of equestrian life that is a unique part of the Valley’s history and heritage.”

Padilla, who rides horses several times a year in his northeast Valley district, contributed $50,000 from his city office fund to the effort, and the council directed the city Department of Recreation and Parks to identify other funds to hire a consultant and conduct the study.

“Just because you live in Los Angeles, just because you live in the San Fernando Valley, doesn’t mean you should have to give up that lifestyle,” Councilman Tony Cardenas said.

Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, whose district includes much of the central Valley, said, “This is a wonderful heritage of our city and a place we need to continue to protect.”

Council members from other parts of the city also supported the move to establish a master plan for trails throughout the city.

Councilman Eric Garcetti, who represents part of Hollywood, said horseback riding was an important part of his youth growing up in the city.