Backbone Trail Reaches Goal

Imagine a destination that offers expansive views, clean air and an escape from urban pressure, right in our own back yard. The Santa Monica Mountains is this precious wilderness, the wild heart of Los Angeles.

                The range, notable for its east-west orientation, is small relative to its surroundings—the Pacific Ocean, the L.A. Basin and the San Fernando Valley. The length of the range, 46 miles from Griffith Park to Point Mugu, is substantial, but it averages only 7.5 miles wide.

                As the city continues to grow and the pressures of development increase, we realize how important it has become to preserve this invaluable resource and how difficult it is to do.

                One victory will be heralded on Saturday, June 4, with a celebration to recognize completion of the 67-mile Backbone Trail, the spine of a 500-mile network of trails that connects the residents of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties to their public lands. This milestone, and nomination as a National Recreation Trail, is set from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., with the ceremony at 10 a.m. at Will Rogers State Historic Park.

                For more than 50 years, the idea of a ridgeline trail has lingered in the air as an unfulfilled vision. It took serious work by California State Parks, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the National Park Service to begin to knit together the Backbone Trail from Will Rogers to Point Mugu, anchored in the middle by Malibu Creek State Park.

                By 1990, 43 miles of the trail had been completed, coursing along ridges, traversing chaparral-covered hillsides, penetrating oak woodlands and bridging creeks and valleys.

                For most of us, the Backbone Trail remained in the periphery of our consciousness, knowing that it was going to be a slow process to plot a path.

                “The simple act of walking on a trail is anything but simple to make possible,” says Melanie Beck, whose duties as NPS Outdoor Recreation Planner have focused primarily on Backbone Trail planning and land acquisition.

                “The Backbone Trail truly was anything but simple to complete, with buying over 200 parcels from some 180 landowners, and then constructing some 40 miles of new trail.”



Palisades News Contributor

Corral Canyon summit. Photo: Jim Kenney

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