It’s been a long battle for Renee Lawler of the Wrigley Heights Equestrian Association. She was one of two individuals at the Nov. 10 Long Beach City Council meeting who cited concerns about horse riders like her who criticized the plan for the restoration of the DeForest Wetlands.
In a subsequent email to the Signal Tribune, she also took issue with the Riverwalk subdivision development for 131 homes and criticized the environmental-impact reports for DeForest, Riverwalk and other LA River projects, which she said did not adequately address the horse trails.
The council approved both the plans for DeForest and Riverwalk on Nov. 10. The Riverwalk decision was approved in a first reading that day. When Lawler was asked this week in a phone interview if she felt she had any other recourse to object to the DeForest development, she said she did not yet know.
As far as the Deforest Wetlands restoration is concerned, she cited the project as an example of how an LA River project fails to meet the needs of the horse riders who have asked for a “safe, continuous trail experience.”
She described the dilemma of how the trails along the LA River become fragmented and unsafe. She explained that the road becomes a “trail to nowhere” and that ridership declines.
“[It’s] really not the history of these trails,” she added, citing that there has been legislative history that intended to preserve the trail.
Lawler says that at Del Amo Boulevard, there are safety issues for horses from the south to continue north of Del Amo and for riders north of the boulevard to cross it and continue south. She says that the horses follow this trail leading from an entrance near Del Amo Boulevard and head south to the Dominguez Gap Wetlands area. She is concerned that there are no adequate signs at Del Amo for horses to cross, but there are signs for the bicyclists.
A City spokeswoman confirmed that Long Beach will address the signage issue. Heather Morrison, communications deputy for 8th District Councilmember Al Austin, said in a statement to the Signal Tribune that the City’s Parks, Recreation & Marine Department has committed to providing adequate signs for the multi-use trails. Austin had particularly urged the council to approve the Riverwalk project on Nov. 10.
A spokesman for the city manager’s office did not comment before press time on whether the DeForest Wetlands restoration project or any other project that the City is planning in the LA River area will impact or reroute the horse trails.
The experience of riding the trails along the river from Long Beach to Whittier is a relic of the past, according to Jim Meyer, a horse rider and spokesman for Trails4All, a nonprofit organization dedicated to maintaining and improving trails in Southern California. Meyer, a resident of Paramount, has ridden his mustang horse from Century Boulevard along a trail that leads southward.
In the past, he’s ridden under the bridge for the 105 Freeway, passing through Alondra Boulevard and beyond Long Beach Boulevard to a pizza place, where there is a hitching post. These days, he usually doesn’t ride that far, and he usually stops around an equestrian area near Alondra.
He described how the trail has been broken up over the years by other development, including the Metro Green Line railroad. He also named other sections of the horse trail that were affected.
When asked about what it’s like to take a horse through traffic, Meyer said that the owner has to be confident, and the horse will eventually be acclimated. His horse was born in the wild, and mustangs like his can be scared of everything, he said.
“They’ve never been domesticated,” he added. “[This] mare looks to me, and if I’m not afraid, then she thinks, ‘Oh, okay, I can do it.’”
He described how the traffic, including motorcycles, don’t faze her now, but it didn’t happen on the first day. It took time.
Last week isn’t the first time Lawler has picked apart other projects close to her home, or more importantly, close to the trails that lead along the LA River, and it certainly won’t be the last. She, like nine other neighbors, owns a home in Wrigley Heights that is affected by a Los Angeles County plan to improve the area.
Lawler explained that the land adjacent to her home is in dispute with the County of Los Angeles. She described how years ago, 10 homeowners had placed an initial deposit to purchase an area where they could get access from their yards for their horses to follow the trail along the LA River. As the Signal Tribune reported last year, the homeowners took issue with the County, and there was a dispute over how much that land is worth.
County officials have a new proposal for that disputed parcel of land– a plan to create a publicly accessible equestrian area. They’ve rolled it out this week to the affected residents along San Francisco Street Wednesday night.
The Signal Tribune will report on that story next week.