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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Debs Park shapes up as mountain bike battle ground

The steep hills and narrow canyons of Debs Park in Montecito Heights provide a nearly 300-acre refuge in the middle of the city. There is nothing peaceful, however, about the tug-of-war being waged over Debs between mountain bikers, who want to open the park to off-road riding, and park advocates concerned about safety. The issue will be coming up at a Wednesday night public meeting in Highland Park as the city's Planning Department reviews an update to the city's Bike Plan.

The Bike Plan deals mostly with surface streets and paved bike paths. But the off-road portion of the plan has often generated a great deal of acrimony. In fact, the Planning Department hired a mediator to help gather public opinion on the off-road portion of the Bike Plan. But, judging by comments in online forums, tensions are still running high. As in previous versions of the plan, one trail in Debs Park would be dedicated to off-road mountain biking (Griffith Park would get two). Mountain bikers say these trails would help meet the growing demand for off-road biking, noting that cities across the country have been able to make room for off-road biking in public parks. Opponents to off-road biking, however, have managed to block off-road biking proposals for more than a decade and have vowed to do so again. Martha Benedict, chair of the Debs Park Advisory Board, made her opposition clear in a recent post on the NELA List:

"The Debs Park Advisory Board unanimously opposes mountain biking on dirt trails in Debs Park. We do not believe that mountain bikers are entitled to displace the traditional park users. We do not agree with the argument that mountain bikers and hikers can safely use the same dirt trails. We do not believe any portion of the city's dirt trails should be shared with mountain bikers. It's like insisting soccer players and polo players use the same field--at the same time."

Bike Plan Meeting:
Date: Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Location: Ramona Hall
Address: 4580 N Figueroa Street
Time: 6:00pm-8:00pm


  1. Please inform people concerned with preserving Debbs park that a more bikeable LA is a city more connected to its open spaces, with more wildlife from a smaller urban footprint, and full of citizens more concerned with health and engaged with their surroundings--all things that will benefit Debbs. Please stop directing these divisive squabbles on a meeting we spent a lot of time setting up to bring people together on an issue that will benefit them greatly. This meeting is about safer, healthier and more connected streets and communities, and we don't need any more of this alarmism that helps no one (do the research; the off-road section of the bike plan is four pages long, does nothing to upend the municipal ban on mt. bikes in parks, and only assesses and inventories trails and their users). Thanks,

  2. The Draft Bike Plan does not recommend creating a mountain bike trail in Debs Park or Griffith Park. It simply says that the existing Bicycle Plan DID recommend trails in those two parks.

    That said, parks are for everyone. There are innumerable examples of parks across the US where bikers, walkers, hikers, and equestrians all safely share the same trails and paths. Get with the program LA. Allowing people to bike on trails will not result in the end of civilization as we know it.

    Who is Martha Benedict to define what a "traditional" park user is anyway? There was a time when activities like skateboarding, soccer, running, tennis, or baseball (to name a few) weren't considered "traditional" activities. Times change. People should try and be a little more inclusive and respectful of others' recreational needs and desires and stop with all the fear mongering.

  3. Debs Park is a special case. It encompasses the Audubon Center, which is dedicated to nature education and habitat restoration. The park is protected by a Los Angeles city ordinance, The Debs Park Framework Plan, that includes preservation of its unique wilderness environment. "Traditional" refers to the historic park user, people who've hiked those hills for decades. Mountain biking does not fit this passive recreation park at all.

  4. I'm grateful for the peace and solitude Debs affords. When hiking the trails I quietly nod to passersby but that's the extent of it. There are so few places in the city to enjoy nature, in quiet peace. Evading bikes on a pedestrian trail would ruin that.

  5. The bike bigots are out again.

  6. Cycling in all its forms promotes a healthy lifestyle. In the only time in history when the life expectancy is actually decreasing cycling should be embraced not banned!