Historic Hike with the Mayor

City Councilman Dave Spence recalls the day, a couple of decades ago, when he took his teenage nephew visiting from Florida on a hike up Cherry Canyon: “We were walking up this trail at 7 in the morning, and about five or six deer were on top of this hill up here. My nephew said, ‘Uncle Dave! I thought we were in Los Angeles!’
“And I said, ‘We are in Los Angeles. But this is a special part of L.A., like a secret enclave up here.’”
It was such moments that convinced Spence the city of La Cañada Flintridge made the right decision to purchase the 130 acres of open space on the hills above Descanso Gardens. A network of hiking trails and utility roads run through the area.
On Saturday, Spence, 80, was the eldest of the nearly 60 hikers, dog-walkers and mountain bikers, as young as 9, who joined La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Jonathan Curtis trekking up the trails to the scenic plateau known as Ultimate Destination Point.
Once there, they celebrated the anniversary of the city’s purchase of Cherry Canyon with fruit and granola bars, a short ceremony and the hurling dozens of poppy seed “bombs” off the hillside.
Those “bombs” — actually, clay-enclosed seeds meant to sprout into native plants — were assembled at the La Cañada Flintridge Community Center by Girls Scouts and Youth Council members Lauren Risha and Christopher Hidalgo.
Risha, a junior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, and Hidalgo, a senior at St. Francis, also developed a self-guided native plant tour along the way. Temporary posted signage identified native plants such as the Mesa Oak, a species that exists only between the Pasadena and Pomona areas. Each placard dislayed along the route included Q code, directing interested visitors with smartphones to the Theodore Payne Foundation website to learn more.
“I think it’s really important to bring awareness to our trails and how blessed we are to live in such a wonderful community,” Risha said. “We have trails that should be maintained and really preserved well, because that’s so hard to find.”
Indeed, a developer had his sights on the area when LCF joined with the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy to buy the land in 1996.
Said Spence: “It’s just one of those things, where if it’s gone, it’s gone. Because if you have one person that’s started, then the next guy’s going to come in and say, ‘You gave Joe Blow the privilege.’ It was one of those things where we realized it was not right to even let it get started.”
On Saturday, Curtis thanked those who had been involved in the purchase for their foresight.
“But for that acquisition, you might just see houses up here,” he said. “I think it’s a far better result that we’ve had the trails and this particular Ultimate Destination Point. It’s really quite a gem.”
In 1986, the city used $179,000 from its reserves — and a $1.3 million state grant — to purchase most of the Cherry Canyon land, which continues to get good use, including from the St. Francis mountain bike team.
“It has a little bit of everything,” Golden Knights sophomore Ethan Qua said. “It has a big fire road, it has technical parts, and single-track trails, it’s up and down. It’s a good place to practice.”
It also has new permanent signage, courtesy of the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council, which works with the city and Los Angeles County to maintain and protect the 23 miles of trails in LCF — and which also recently produced a new map to aid anyone interested in using them.
“Isn’t this great?” asked Caroline Craven, Trails Council president. “I am so grateful, and I think everybody is, for the native plants we have here. You can find different animals up here, and if you’re quiet, you’ll see deer and snakes and different things. I really enjoy everybody coming out.
“Enjoy the area!”

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